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Title: The Czar - A tale of the Time of the First Napoleon
Author: Alcock, Deborah
Language: English
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THE CZAR.

[Illustration: TIMELY AID.

            _Page 30._
]



  THE CZAR.

  A Tale of the Time of the
  First Napoleon.

  [Illustration: SWEET COUNSEL TO A MOURNFUL HEART.

            _Page 442._
]

_T. NELSON AND SONS_,

LONDON, EDINBURGH, AND NEW YORK.



  THE CZAR.

  A Tale of the Time of the First Napoleon.

  _By the Author of_

  “_THE SPANISH BROTHERS_,”

  _&c. &c._

  [Illustration]

  London:

  T. NELSON AND SONS, PATERNOSTER ROW.

  EDINBURGH; AND NEW YORK.

  1895

_All Rights Reserved._]



Contents.


        I. A SLEEPING VILLAGE,                             7

       II. IVAN’S ADVENTURE,                              18

      III. SOMETHING WONDERFUL HAPPENS TO IVAN,           25

       IV. IVAN’S HORIZON WIDENS,                         37

        V. PETROVITCH,                                    48

       VI. IVAN’S EDUCATION,                              59

      VII. “ON THE EDGE OF THE STORM,”                    70

     VIII. A NATION’S TRANSPORT,                          81

       IX. CLEMENCE,                                      94

        X. THE DRAWING OF THE LOT,                       106

       XI. ONE OF HALF A MILLION,                        113

      XII. ONE OF FIFTY MILLION,                         119

     XIII. SERF AND BOYAR,                               130

      XIV. THE FORLORN HOPE,                             138

       XV. THE MARTYR CITY,                              148

      XVI. ALEXANDER,                                    153

     XVII. IN THE CAMP,                                  166

    XVIII. TWO IMPORTANT INTERVIEWS,                     174

      XIX. THE CHEVALIER GUARD,                          183

       XX. WEARY, WANDERING FEET,                        192

      XXI. OVER THE BERESINA,                            206

     XXII. THE AIDE-DE-CAMP OF ST. PRIEST,               216

    XXIII. THE MOSCOW MEDAL,                             230

     XXIV. ONE YEAR AFTERWARDS,                          238

      XXV. “FATHER PARIS FOR MOTHER MOSCOW,”             244

     XXVI. AT VERSAILLES,                                250

    XXVII. RECOGNITIONS,                                 260

   XXVIII. DRIFTING,                                     274

     XXIX. IVAN’S DINNER PARTY, AND WHAT FOLLOWED,       283

      XXX. THE PURPLE BROCADE ONCE MORE,                 294

     XXXI. LEAVES FROM LETTERS,                          306

    XXXII. TWO RETURNS, ONE OF THEM NOT EXPECTED,        315

   XXXIII. HIS KING SPEAKS TO THE CZAR,                  329

    XXXIV. AFTER WATERLOO,                               342

     XXXV. “THE GRAY SISTER OF HEARTS,”                  353

    XXXVI. TWO HAPPY DAYS,                               363

   XXXVII. AT NICOLOFSKY,                                376

  XXXVIII. A ROSEBUD,                                    384

    XXXIX. MORNING SUNSHINE,                             389

       XL. MORNING CLOUDS,                               400

      XLI. FROM AFAR,                                    409

     XLII. SNOW-DRIFTS,                                  422

    XLIII. HIS KING SPEAKS TO THE CZAR ONCE MORE,        427

     XLIV. “CHRISTOHS VOSKRESS,”                         440



THE CZAR.



CHAPTER I.

A SLEEPING VILLAGE.

  “Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay.”--TENNYSON.


The nineteenth century was still very young; its eventful day--that
day whose sunset we have yet to see--had but lately dawned upon
the world. There were regions, even in Europe, where, for any
illumination brought them by the age, the hand of time might have
been put back for centuries. In the vast monotonous plain around
Moscow the ancient,--Moscow the holy, with her “forty times forty
churches,”--Russian serfs tilled the corn-fields of their lords,
trembled beneath the knout and the plitt, ate their kasha and drank
their kvass, and enjoyed the simple luxuries of their stoves and their
vapour-baths, just as their fathers and fathers’ fathers had done for
generations.

In that land of sameness, where received types repeat each other to
weariness, with almost as little variety in the works of nature as
originality in those of man, the village of Nicolofsky was a fair
sample of a hundred others. It belonged to Plato Zoubof, one of the
favourites of Catherine II., who had bestowed it upon him with the
adjacent lands and the “bodies and souls of men” it contained. Out of
these he contrived to wring no inconsiderable revenue; but he never
honoured Nicolofsky with his presence. A steward managed everything,
unfortunately for the peasants, or mujiks, who were treated with much
more severity than their brethren whose natural lords dwelt “among
their own people,” and cultivated relations with them usually kindly,
often even paternal. From the mujiks of Nicolofsky heavy dues were
exacted, and much labour required in the corn-fields of their lord. In
harvest-time they were often forced to toil the whole night long, and
any shortcoming was cruelly punished. At this very epoch a series of
enlightened enactments, tending to ameliorate the lot of the serf and
to prepare the way for his complete emancipation, were emanating from
the supreme authority in the state; but from these Nicolofsky had as
yet received little or no practical benefit, except, indeed, the deep
conviction, which sank into the heart of the mujik, that his lord the
Czar loved him and cared for his welfare.

Still, as the proverb tells us, “The holy Russian land is large, but
everywhere the dear sun shines.” Many a gleam of sunlight, from the
mercy of Him whose compassions are over all his works, brightens even
the lot of servitude, that looks, and rightly looks, so dark and so
degrading to the thoughtful observer. Had such an observer visited
Nicolofsky on the bright afternoon of one of the Church holidays
in the late Russian spring, he would have found some difficulty in
remembering, and perhaps as much in persuading the mujiks, that they
were an oppressed and miserable race.

Youths and maidens, boys and girls were crowding to the birch-wood
to enjoy their favourite pastime of the swing. Nor were the older
villagers unrepresented--at least so far as regards the men. Many a
grave, bearded mujik keenly enjoyed the motion without labour so dear
to the indolent and excitable Russian, although the women for the most
part remained at home to prepare the tschi (or cabbage soup) for the
festive evening meal. The young people, as they passed along, made the
air resound with their sweet national songs, chanted in parts and with
wonderful grace and harmony.

The company of children seemed to follow the guidance of one of their
number, whom either his position or the choice of his companions had
made a leader amongst them. At twelve or fourteen the little mujik
is often a very handsome lad, as may be seen from the boy postilions
of St. Petersburg. And a most favourable specimen of the class, if
indeed he belonged to it at all, was the fair-haired boy who stepped so
proudly along, quite conscious of his superior dignity, and conspicuous
in his new caftan of bright blue, bound round the waist with a crimson
sash. He held by the hand a little girl, very pretty, though not so
gaily clad. She seemed to be his especial charge; and when the spot in
the wood where they meant to pursue their sport was reached at last,
the other children crowded around them, and, like juvenile courtiers,
emulously tendered their help to make a swing for “Barrinka,” the
little lord, who had promised to swing Anna “Popovna,” the priest’s
daughter. These swings were made very easily, by bending down and tying
together the flexible elastic branches of the giant birches.

Barrinka, however, wanted to do all himself, and he did it quickly and
neatly. He had just, with boyish gallantry, placed his little companion
in the seat prepared for her, when an older lad pushed rudely through
the group of children, and coming up to him laid his hand on his
shoulder. “Get into that seat and swing yourself, Ivan Barrinka,” he
said. “To-day Anna Popovna belongs to me--not to you.”

Ivan shook off his hand, and for a moment they stood motionless,
looking each other in the face. Strong was the contrast between the
fine, delicate features of the one, and the rough, dogged, determined
face of the other, which seemed hewn out of his native granite.
Evidently this was not by any means their first quarrel.

“Hold thy peace, one-eared Michael,” Ivan answered at last. “I tell
thee Anna wants me to swing her--_me_, and not thee.”

“Let her say so, then.--Is that true, Anna Popovna? Didst thou not
promise me yesterday, after church, that I should swing thee to-day--I,
and no one else?”

Thus appealed to, the little girl behaved very like a grown-up daughter
of Eve. She pouted, blushed, stammered, and seemed to hesitate between
her two cavaliers, neither of whom she wished to offend. At length she
said, “If you wanted so much to swing me, why were you not here in
time, Michael Ivanovitch?”

“Easy for those who have naught to do to blame those who work hard. I
had water to fetch and wood to cut for the mother,” said Michael, the
widow’s son.

“Well, it was a pity, since you stayed away so long, that you did not
stay altogether, and leave us in peace,” Anna rejoined in a pettish
tone.

This exasperated Michael, and not without reason, if all were told.
“You did not say that to me, Anna Popovna,” he cried, “when I went to
seek you in the snowstorm, you and your brother the Popovitch, and lost
my left ear to save you.” Then he turned fiercely upon Ivan, as upon a
foe more worthy of his wrath: “It is all your fault, Ivan Barrinka. I
am quite tired of you and of your pride. Lord though you may be, you
shall not lord it over me. And, after all, who knows who and what you
are? I’m sure I don’t. Do you know yourself? Answer me that. Whose son
are you?”

“It is you who are proud, Michael Ivanovitch. Since that wonderful
snowstorm you were out in there has been no bearing with you. One would
think, from the airs you give yourself, that no one ever had an ear
frozen before.”

By this time the loud voices had attracted the attention of the other
boys. Leaving their swings, they came crowding around; and as soon as
they understood the cause of the dispute, they all turned with one
accord upon Michael, threatening him with condign punishment if he did
not forthwith let Barrinka have his way, whatever that way might be.

But Barrinka no longer cared for the pastime. Michael’s taunt, “Who
knows who and what you are?” had struck home. From infancy the pet
and plaything of the village--every wish anticipated, every caprice
borne with, he had been surrounded with an atmosphere of deferential
affection. He could not but know that he differed from all around
him; a mystery hung about his birth, which, through injudicious and
mistaken kindness, had been neither wholly concealed nor yet frankly
revealed to him. All his little playfellows had fathers and mothers.
It is true they were beaten sometimes, while _he_ was never beaten.
Still, it seemed to him a strange thing to have no father or mother.
He called the starost, or elder of the village, in whose house he had
been brought up, “bativshka” (little father), and his wife, “mativshka”
(little mother), but that was not by any means the same as having a
father and mother of his own.

“Take the swing if you like it,” he said to Michael. “I care nothing
about it. I shall do something by-and-by much better than anything you
have ever done in your life.”

Leaving the children behind him in the wood, he bent his steps
homeward, regardless of the regretful looks sent after him by blue-eyed
Anna Popovna, who saw that her little cavalier was sorely vexed, and
would gladly have comforted him. Two longings filled his childish
heart,--to be able to tell Michael and everybody who he was, and to
be the hero of an adventure more wonderful than Michael’s wanderings
through the snow in search of the priest’s children. Michael had been
out in a snowstorm and lost an ear! In comparison with such a hero the
little lord felt himself a very child.

He soon came in sight of the double row of brown wooden cottages that
called itself Nicolofsky. These cottages, or izbas, were built of the
trunks of trees laid one over the other, with the interstices stuffed
with moss. There was a church, also of wood, but larger and better
built, with a bell suspended from a fine elm tree close to it. Two of
the izbas were better than the rest, and belonged, one to the starost,
the other to the pope, or parish priest, Anna’s father. That of the
starost boasted a porch, with ornamental wooden pillars and quaint
carvings. It had a substantial chimney built of good bricks, and secure
well-glazed windows to keep out the intense cold of the Russian winter.
Indeed all the cottages were more comfortable than they looked.

Ivan entered, and dutifully made his bow, as he had been taught to
do, to the holy picture which hung in the corner, with a lamp burning
before it, since this was a feast-day. The contents of the izba were
extremely simple. The most conspicuous object was the stove, with a
wide shelf or platform over it, upon which the family usually slept;
a handsome carved chest contained the clothing used upon festive
occasions, and there were besides a few stools, a table, an arm-chair,
and some wooden cups, platters, and cooking utensils. The vapour-bath,
that indispensable Russian luxury, occupied an outhouse.

An old woman stood over the fire, diligently stirring a capacious
caldron, from which there issued a very savoury steam. The family the
starost had to feed was not a small one,--three grown-up sons, with the
wife and child of one of them, found shelter beneath his roof.

“You are cooking tschi for our supper, mativshka,” said Ivan.

“And what better dish could I be cooking, my little dove? ‘For tschi,
folk wed,’ says the proverb.”

“When I am old enough I will wed Anna Popovna.”

“Hush! hush! My darling must not talk so. He is worth a thousand
Popovnas.”

“One-eared Michael does not think that.”

“Who cares for one-eared Michael?”

“But, mativshka, to-day he asked me who I was, and I--I had no answer.”

“No answer! Why, every one knows who you are. You are our dear little
lord.”

“But whose son am I, mativshka? That was what he wanted to know.”

“Ask the father, boy, ask the father. As for me, why, ‘A word is not a
bird: if it flies out, you’ll never catch it again.’”

Old Feodora would not have thought it any harm to put her nursling off
with a string of falsehoods, if they had occurred to her at the moment,
or if she had thought them necessary; for these poor, “dimly-lighted
souls” had little idea of the value of truth. But Ivan’s history was
now so much an “open secret” in the village, that she saw no reason why
the boy should not know it himself, since he was twelve years old, and
very intelligent. Still, she was afraid to tell him anything without
her husband’s knowledge and concurrence.

Soon afterwards the starost came in--an imposing and venerable figure,
his long, gray beard nearly covering the breast of his caftan. He would
have parted with his head quite as readily as with that beard.

As soon as he had made his reverence to the sacred picture, seated
himself in his chair by the stove, and exchanged his formidable
(and fragrant) boots of Russia leather for a pair of lapti, or bark
slippers, Ivan stood up before him, and put the question directly,
“Bativshka, whose son am I?”

“Great St. Nicholas! what has come to the boy?” the starost exclaimed;
then he looked perplexed, and hesitated for an answer. His wife leaned
over the back of his chair and said a few words in a low voice, and
a whispered discussion followed, during which Ivan waited patiently.
Presently Feodora returned to her cooking; and the starost solemnly
crossed his breast with the thumb and two fingers of his right hand,
then taking from his pocket a medal with the effigy of his patron saint
upon it, he brightened it with a rub against his sleeve, and said a
prayer to it, or to the personage it represented. Having thus prepared
himself, he told Ivan to sit down at his feet.

“My child,” he said, “since you wish to know, I will tell you to-day
what name you have a right to bear; but pray to your saint day and
night that the knowledge may work you no harm.”

“Why should it work me harm, bativshka? Is it that I am the son of a
bad man?”

“God only knows that. What I know is that you are the son of our lord
and master.”

“Not of Zoubof! no, no!” cried Ivan, wondering.

The old man replied by a gesture of supreme contempt: “_Zoubof!_ He
is of yesterday. Such as he come and go and are forgotten, like last
year’s snow. But you, Ivan Barrinka, you are the son of our true lord,
our master in God’s sight--a great boyar,[1] a prince who can trace his
lineage back to the days of Rurik. Yes; you are the son of”--here he
paused and bowed his gray head reverently--“of Prince Pojarsky.”

Ivan was impressed by the solemn tone in which these words were spoken.
He waited in silence for a few moments, then he questioned in a low
voice, “And who is Prince Pojarsky?”

“He and his have been the lords of Nicolofsky and the lands around
it for generations and generations, even before the old times when
the Poles conquered Muscovy. But in the days of the great Czarina
Catherine, who rests with God, our lord and your father, being a
young man, full of pride and loving pleasure, must needs go forth
to travel in strange lands. For you must know, Ivan Barrinka, that
there are other lands in God’s world besides holy Russia, and that
the peoples thereof do not obey our lord the Czar, but have kings
and rulers of their own. This is hard to believe; but Pope Nikita
says so, and, moreover, the soldiers tell us of them when they come
back from the wars. Besides, I have seen Nyemtzi[2] myself--Frenchmen
and Frenchwomen, who had not a word of good Russian, but spoke an
outlandish tongue of their own. What is sad to think, our lord and your
father not only went amongst these foreigners, but gave his hand in
marriage to one of them. Not that I have anything to say against the
beautiful, gracious lady, your mother. The good saints rest her soul!
Mativshka loved her well, and God knows she served her faithfully. But
amongst her kinsfolk must have been some who were the devil’s children;
for they rose against their own king, and, horrible to tell! they slew
him. Moreover, they did not do it secretly and in darkness, but openly,
in the face of day, on a scaffold, as if he had been a thief or a
murderer. Truly they are strange people, those Nyemtzi.

“Let us hope that evil men slandered our lord to the Czarina when they
said _he_ bore part in such wickedness. But at all events she believed
the tale. When he came back to St. Petersburg, and dared to show his
face at the Hermitage (the great, beautiful house where our lady the
Czarina lived), she scathed him with the lightning of her anger. It is
even reported that she said to him, ‘_Pachol!_’[3]--the word you would
use to a dog if you were angry with it. Straightway he was sent an
exile to Siberia, and all he had was taken from him and given to Plato
Zoubof. Better had they laid him in his grave at once. The beautiful
young lady, your mother, quickly died of grief, and mativshka, who was
your nurse, brought you home to her own people. For a long time we hid
you carefully, and guarded the secret jealously amongst ourselves;
for we feared the new lord Plato Zoubof, and still more the steward
Dmitri--a hard man, who has no pity. But now both know you are here,
and care nothing for it. ‘What is it to us?’ they say. So that now,
without fear, you may call yourself, and be called by every one, by the
noble name you have a right to bear. Only remember, Ivan Barrinka, that
although you are the son of a boyar and a prince, the same God made us
and you, and the poor man’s soul is worth as much in his sight as your
own.”

Ivan answered not a word. As one overpowered, he threw himself face
downwards on the earthen floor, and lay there absorbed in thought.
But at last he raised his wondering, child-like face, full of the
brightness of a new idea. “Bativshka, people sometimes come back from
Siberia, do they not?”

The old man shook his head. “They who go are as the sand,” he said;
“they who come back may be reckoned on your fingers.”

“But I remember the time of the Czar’s coronation--four--five years
ago, was it? I was quite a little boy then. Many exiles came home from
Siberia; and you went to the Moscow road to see them pass, and the
people wept for joy, you said. I wanted to go, but you would not bring
me, saying I was too young. If these exiles came back, then why not my
father?”

“Ah, you cannot understand. That was quite another matter. The late
Czar, Paul Petrovitch, who reigned after the Czarina Catherine, was
somewhat stern and hard. Doubtless God sent him to punish the great
nobles for their sins. He banished many of them to Siberia; but the
Czar that now is, whom God preserve! pardoned them all, and let them
return home. Yet some offences there be that find no pardon ever,
except in the grave;--and to the exile’s resting-place the grave is
always near.”

Ivan’s next thought was a more childish one. “Bativshka,” he said,
after another silence, “I should like to tell all this to Anna Popovna
and to Michael Ivanovitch. Still, although I am the son of a boyar
and a prince,” he added presently, “I shall not be quite happy, not
_quite_, until I have taken a longer journey than ever Michael did, and
have had something happen to me much more wonderful than getting frozen
and losing one of my ears.”



CHAPTER II.

IVAN’S ADVENTURE.

  “Adventures are to the adventurous.”--CONINGSBY.


Ivan Barrinka, or Ivan Pojarsky, as he may now be called, was a
genuine child of Russia. His nature was quick, mobile, restless,
passionate. He was capable of strong determination, but capable also of
changefulness and inconstancy, because the mood of the moment always
seized upon and swayed his whole soul. But he was all this only in the
germ, for his was as yet the unawakened, undeveloped mind of a child.
The simple-hearted guardians of his infancy had given him all they
could--food, shelter, and tenderness; and this not only without hope
of reward, but during some years under absolute terror of discovery
and punishment. But they could not give him the instruction to which
his intelligent mind would have so eagerly responded. No one in the
village, except the priest, knew the mysteries of the Russian alphabet;
and Pope Nikita, like most Russian priests, was in no real sense a
pastor or a teacher, but rather a machine for performing the numerous
ceremonies of his Church. All that could be said in his favour was,
that if he did little good, he did little harm. Neither from him nor
from the starost did Ivan learn any religion except a series of outward
acts and postures, of bowings and crossings, and formal repetitions of
“Gospodin pomilvi,”[4] with a respect for sacred pictures, and a vague
reverence for God, for the saints, and for the Czar. He never dreamed
that any of these mysterious, far-away powers should influence his
daily conduct, though he did believe that his patron St. John (Ivan is
the Russian form of John) might help him in a time of need; because,
when he had the measles, a picture of the saint had been blessed by
the pope and laid on his breast, and straightway he began to recover!
It was mournfully significant of the kind of instruction he received,
that he had but one and the same word to designate the divine Being and
the “gods of silver and gods of gold” that too often, in the popular
estimation, usurped His place. If any one had asked him, “Who made
you?” he would have answered, “Bog;” and had the question followed,
“What is that in the corner, before which the candle is burning?” he
would still have replied, without hesitation, “It is Bog.”

A few childish legends of the saints, a few stories of “kiki-noras” or
goblins, formed the staple of the “folk lore” that circulated round
the stove during the long winter evenings. The Bible narratives, so
familiar and so fascinating to the English child, were almost unknown
to Ivan; nor did exploits of the heroes of his own country hold the
place they sometimes do on the lips or in the hearts of the people.
Hence, when the starost told him that he was himself the heir of one
of the noblest of Russian names, no answering chord resounded in
his heart. The revelation, that ought to have moved him so deeply,
failed of its due effect, because his ignorance did not supply the
background that was needed to throw it into relief. He had always
known that he was something other, something greater than those around
him; but beyond that he had no power of measuring social distances.
Princes, boyars, all who were not mujiks, were alike to him; just as
it seemed to him nearly the same thing to go to the Moscow road, to
Moscow itself, or even to St. Petersburg. Therefore, after spending a
little vague, half-comprehending wonder upon the starost’s story, his
mind reverted, as days went on, to what was at this period his ruling
idea--the hope of rivalling and surpassing Michael in some deed of
daring, and consequently in the regard of Anna Popovna.

It was not for his advantage that his kindly foster-parents never
exacted from him any of the labours that fell to the lot of the little
mujiks, his playfellows. “Prepare to die, mujik, but till the soil,”
says the Russian proverb; and certainly where there is no other
education an early apprenticeship to manual toil is rather a blessing
than otherwise. Ivan’s idle hands and restless feet were left quite at
liberty to obey all the suggestions of his active, untaught mind; while
his naturally brave disposition was rendered still more fearless from
the fact of his never having been, upon any occasion, punished or even
thwarted or reproved.

One summer morning, just as the first faint streaks of dawn began to
brighten the cottage window, he rose softly from his sleeping-place on
the shelf above the stove. All the rest had worked hard the day before,
and were slumbering soundly now; so he dressed himself quietly, and
going to the great carved chest lifted the heavy lid with difficulty
and took out and put on his rough sheep-skin coat, or shuba; then he
drew on his warm boots of Russia leather lined with fur; next, he cut
for himself with a hatchet a great piece of sour black bread, and tied
it in a cloth as provision for the way; lastly, he went to a secret
hiding-place of his own and transferred to his pocket his greatest
treasure--a silver rouble mativshka had given him. Having done all
this, he was hurrying forth with quick noiseless footsteps, when he
remembered an omitted duty. Returning a step or two, he took his stand
before the picture in the corner, made a reverence, and repeated a
hasty prayer; then, with a brave heart and a quiet conscience, he went
forth in search of what fate might bring him,--a little knight-errant
going to look for adventures.

He passed through the sleeping village, with the familiar brown
cottages on either side of him looking peaceful and homelike in the
morning twilight. The church-bell in the tall elm-tree seemed to beckon
him near; he could scarcely resist the temptation of climbing the tree,
seizing the rope, and astonishing the village with an untimely peal.
Only the reflection that this would inevitably bring his own adventure
to an abrupt conclusion stayed his hand. Leaving the houses behind
him, he passed through fields rich with waving corn, then through
pasture-lands, from which he emerged at length upon a bare, monotonous,
sandy plain. Now, for the first time, he ventured to beguile his way
with a song; and his clear, ringing, childish voice sounded far and
wide, yet failed to reach any human ear. Nor would it have fared
otherwise with a cry for help, however shrill and agonized.

Ivan, happily, did not think of this. Fleet of foot and light of
heart, he pursued his course, still singing as he went, until village,
corn-fields, and birch-woods were all left far behind him. And now,
wherever he looked, he saw nothing but a dreary waste of sand, with
here and there a few patches of stunted herbage, and at rare intervals
a solitary pine or a little cluster of birch-trees. The stillness was
absolute: the children of the air eschewed that land of barrenness, and
the beasts of the field seemed also to have abandoned it. None of the
gentler races that man has succeeded in taming found pasture there;
and fortunately wolves were extremely rare, though not quite unknown.
Ivan never dreamed of them; his one concern was to keep the road, for
so he called the track made by the wheels of the rude waggons which
brought the produce of the corn-fields to the river Oka. He knew that
a ferry-boat crossed the river, bringing adventurous travellers to the
great Moscow road on the other side. This road was the goal of his
ambition. As already intimated, no clear distinction existed in his
mind between the Moscow road and Moscow itself, the holy city towards
which the heart of every Russian yearned with reverent love and
passionate longing. It was their Jerusalem, “beautiful for situation,
the joy of the whole earth.” Even ignorant little Ivan had heard of its
wonders and its glories; and he fancied that if once he gained the road
he might see in the distance the gilded spires and domes of the Kremlin
gleaming in the sun. Michael had never seen so much as that, nor been
so far from home!

The sun, in Russia such a rare and much-prized guest, was prodigal
of his favours that day, and shone forth from a cloudless sky. Ivan
had equipped himself for a winter journey, and about noon he began to
grow hot and weary. No shelter was near him, so he sat down on the
sand, rested a little, and ate some of his bread; but he longed in
vain for a draught of kvass[5] to finish his repast, nor could he find
a single drop of water anywhere. He rose unrefreshed and pursued his
way; but, in spite of all his childish courage, the utter loneliness of
the dreary waste around him began to tell upon his spirits. He sang,
he shouted, he talked aloud to himself, merely for the comfort of
hearing his own voice; until by-and-by he became too weary for these
exercises--all he could contrive to do was to keep moving on with a
kind of dogged determination. Once and again was he tempted to turn
back and give up the adventure; indeed, he would have done so, only for
the thought, “If I come back having seen nothing, Michael will jeer me,
and Anna Popovna will join in the laugh.”

At last he grew so tired and frightened that he threw himself on the
ground in a kind of despair, made the sign of the cross, said a prayer
to his patron St. John the evangelist, then fell into a state of
drowsiness, and lost all sense of time, until, after an interval of
perhaps an hour, he was aroused by the sound of voices.

Never had human voices seemed more welcome. Ivan started to his feet,
and saw to his great delight a party of five or six mujiks, carrying
large baskets of cabbages and other vegetables. Greetings were soon
exchanged. His new friends told him that they were journeying from a
distant village to a fair at Kaluga, a town on the other bank of the
Oka. They intended, after crossing the river, to travel all night,
that they might reach the fair with their merchandise early the next
morning. They took the tired little wayfarer by the hand and helped him
on, encouraging him with kind words, and telling him they were now not
far from the ferry.

At last the river appeared in the distance, glimmering in the light of
the rising moon. “Look,” cried his companions, “yonder is the Oka.” But
Ivan was by this time too weary to care; he could scarcely keep his
eyes open and his feet moving.

They drew nearer and nearer. The river was as broad as the Thames--a
fine sheet of water, with green banks on either side. From these there
came a hoarse, monotonous sound--the croaking of innumerable frogs,
which some one has unpoetically called “the nightingales of Russia.”
Soon a brown wooden shed came into view, where the men said they would
find kvass, and perhaps even vodka.[6] This roused Ivan, who was still
tormented with thirst. He saw the moonlight upon the waters; the grassy
sward beside them; the rough boat-house, out of which a withered old
woman, with a red handkerchief wrapped around her head and a torch of
pine-wood in her hand, came to meet the wayfarers.

There was no boat to be had, she said; her son had not returned, though
she expected him before sundown;--she could not think what detained
him. The peasants were grievously disappointed. The sale of their
merchandise depended on their reaching the fair in good time, so their
vexation was quite natural. It was somewhat allayed, however, by the
offer of vodka, that charmer so fatally dear to the heart of the mujik.
And their weary little companion was not quite forgotten. “Give the
little one a taste, mother,” they said. “Poor child, he is ready to
faint.”

It was to the honour of the people of Nicolofsky that, though
themselves no patterns of sobriety, they had at least kept the
destroyer from the young lips of their nursling. Ivan turned from the
fiery beverage with loathing, and asked for kvass. “Here is no kvass,”
said the old woman roughly. “No man would be fool enough to drink it
who could get vodka. But you can have water, if you like.”

With this he was content. He wrapped himself up in his shuba, lay down
beside the fire in the shed, and was soon fast asleep; while the mujiks
sat outside talking, laughing, singing, and drinking vodka.



CHAPTER III.

SOMETHING WONDERFUL HAPPENS TO IVAN.

  “Dir ist dein Ohr geklungen
    Vom Lob das man dir bot,
  Doch ist zu ihn gedrungen
    Ein schwacher Schrei der Noth.
  Der ist ein Held der Freien
    Der, wenn der Ruhm ihn kränzt,
  Noch gluht, zu dem zu weihen,
    Das frommet und nicht glänzt.”--RUCKÄRT.


When Ivan awoke it was broad daylight; the shed was empty, and all
around him still and silent. After a few moments of bewilderment, he
remembered where he was, and a sudden terror seized him lest the boat
might have come and gone, and his companions have crossed the river
without him. So he threw on his shuba and hurried out. They were
standing on the bank, watching eagerly for the boat--or rather for
the boatman, of whom as yet there was no appearance, though they were
tantalized by the sight of the empty boat lying high and dry on the
opposite bank. Their irritation increased every moment, and curses were
not wanting, which lost none of their effect uttered in that hard,
resonant, metallic language.

At this point a new wayfarer joined the group. He came with long
strides, as one in eager haste, and his annoyance at the delay seemed
even greater than that of the rest. He was a fine, active, young
fellow, neatly dressed, and with a mason’s trowel stuck in the sash of
his caftan, where all the others carried the indispensable axe. Seeing
no sign of the approach of a boat, he grew pale, and ground his teeth
with angry disappointment.

“Just like my luck!” he muttered. “As well throw myself into the river
at once, as wait here much longer.”

“Patience, friend,” said the oldest of the mujiks. “Are we not all in
the like case? Nay, we are worse off than you, for we have waited here
all night.”

“Worse off! you little know! With you it is a matter of a few kopecks;
with me it is life and death. If I am not at Klopti by sundown, there
is the knout for my back.”

“Why? In Heaven’s name, what have you done?”

“Done! nothing in the world but work at my trade, and pay my obrok
truly to my lord” (for he was one of that numerous class of serfs
who were permitted by their lords to work on their own account, upon
payment of an annual tax, or _obrok_). “But he raised my obrok three
times, until at last I could scarcely live, and was left no chance of
saving a rouble or two for the future. Then last summer I fell from
the scaffolding of a house I was building, and was sore hurt. Only
that the people I lodged with were good Christians, it would have gone
ill with me. But I recovered, thanks to my patron St. Stefen; and when
the spring came on I got work again--government work too, which is
well paid. I made up my obrok, and then--why then, my brothers, the
world went well with me, and my heart was light. Little Katinka, the
daughter of the kind soul that took care of me while I was ill, was the
prettiest girl in the quarter, and good and pure like a candle of white
wax made to burn before the picture of a holy saint. So we gave each
other our troth; and I think the Czar himself on his golden throne was
scarce happier than I. But five days ago there came a messenger from
Klopti to call me home at once. My lord wants to make him a new house,
and must needs have me to build it for him and to teach the men of the
village to build also. It was sudden; but my lord does not think much
of us poor people--God forgive him!”

“But, brother;--what is it you call yourself?” asked the mujik who had
spoken before.

“Stefen Alexitch, at your service.”

“Well, then, Brother Stefen, why did you not set out at once? You would
have been by this time at your journey’s end.”

“I know it. Indeed I was wrong, very wrong. But the very next day was
Katinka’s feast-day, and as I knew only too well that I was never
likely to look on her sweet face again, I was tempted to stay, just
that I might dance one more measure with her. I thought I could have
walked more quickly. And now this cursed delay! God grant my lord may
not lose patience altogether, and wreak his vengeance on my poor old
father and mother! That would be worse than the knout across my own
shoulders.”

Stefen’s narrative elicited many expressions of compassion.

“Poor lad! thy case is hard indeed,” said one.

“Ah,” sighed another, “how true the proverb, ‘Heaven is high, and the
Czar far off.’”

But at that moment a third exclaimed joyfully,--

“Look, brothers!--the boat at last!”

So it was. At first it was seen to shoot rapidly across the strong
current of the river; but by-and-by the rower seemed to flag, and his
strokes grew uncertain and unsteady.

The mujiks were too glad to see him on any terms to be critical about
the quality of his performances. They crowded to the river’s brink,
that they might be ready to spring into the boat the moment it touched
the land.

Ivan took advantage of the confusion to steal up to Stefen and slip his
silver rouble quietly into his hand. “Take it,” he whispered. “It is
all I have; but you can get a fairing with it to send to Katinka.”

It was poor consolation; but he meant it well, and Stefen’s sore heart
was soothed by the gentle touch. He bent over the boy and kissed him.
There was no time to do more; if they wished to get places in the boat,
they must hasten.

The boatman, meanwhile, was volubly explaining the cause of his delay,
his speech thickened with much vodka. A party of boyars--_very_ great
boyars, high and mighty excellencies--had come to the post-house on
the Moscow road, and the postmaster had kept him busy going on their
errands, both last night and this morning. It was easy to see in what
coin his services had been paid for; he had taken so much vodka that
he was scarcely able to row the boat at all, and, moreover, it was too
heavily freighted for safety, not to say for comfort.

Ivan had never been on the water before, and he soon became thoroughly
frightened; not without reason. When they reached the middle of the
river the boatman showed himself so manifestly incapable that Stefen
offered to take the oars. Russian peasants are usually good-tempered,
even when under the influence of vodka; but the boatman, unhappily,
was surly and dogged by nature, and rudely refused to yield his place.
For a few minutes Stefen waited quietly; then seeing that the man was
allowing the boat to drift, to the peril of all their lives, he made an
attempt to take the oars from him by force. The boatman resisted, and
a struggle ensued, from which Ivan hid his face in terror; for now the
two men were standing up, striking and pushing each other wildly, while
the frail, heavily-laden boat swayed and rocked beneath their reckless
feet. One was drunk, the other angry and “bitter of soul.” At length
Ivan heard a heavy plash close beside him. Hastily uncovering his eyes,
he saw the waters closing over the luckless Stefen, and uttered a cry
of horror. To his great relief, however, Stefen rose again to the
surface, and one of the mujiks, seizing an oar, held it out to him. But
either he had lost his presence of mind, or, more probably, his head
had been hurt by the boat in falling. At all events, he made no effort
to grasp the oar; and the mujiks--ignorant, stupid, and awkward, though
not lacking in kindliness--gave him up for lost. Indeed, their own
situation was critical enough; but they got to the shore somehow.

The boatman was sobered by the shock, and almost stupified with grief
for what had happened. But the others crowded round him, and urged him
to go and seek for poor Stefen’s body, that he might at least be buried
like a Christian. This he consented to do; and the task of finding it
proved unexpectedly easy, for a miniature island, in the midst of the
river, with a single tree growing upon it, had arrested the body as
it was borne downwards by the strong current of the stream. The group
on the shore waited in mournful silence while the boatman and two of
the mujiks went and returned, bringing with them their solemn freight,
which they laid sadly and reverently on the fair greensward, beneath
the happy morning sun.

All crossed themselves and murmured a prayer for his soul; and the
oldest of the mujiks detached a little sacred picture from his own neck
and laid it on his breast.

It was Ivan’s first meeting face to face with the king of terrors. The
form so lately full of life and energy lay stiff and rigid; while the
brow, the cheek, the lips--when he saw the strange and solemn change
that had swept over all these, his young heart could bear no more, he
lifted up his voice and wept. His tears unlocked the floodgates of the
general sorrow; all the mujiks standing around him wept and wrung their
hands, like the grown-up children that in truth they were.

Just at that moment, as if to throw into strongest relief the contrast
between life and death, between earth’s brightest sunshine and her
deepest shadows, a young boyar from the party at the post-house came
riding rapidly over the smooth greensward. Drawing near the weeping
group, he checked his horse to a foot-pace, and Ivan turned and looked
at him. There was no splendour in his dress--an officer’s uniform,
gray in colour and plain in fashion. But his face, which seemed to
bring the glow and glory of the morning with it, held Ivan’s gaze with
a kind of fascination. Features almost perfect enough for the deathless
marble of a Grecian sculptor might have worn no charm to his untrained
eye, if they had not also beamed with a kindness and gentleness that
took his heart at once. That bright, young face--the first beardless
manly face he remembered to have seen--left itself for ever on his
mind. It was destined to be the inspiration of his life; and when death
closed his eyes, he had scarcely a dearer hope than to see it once
again in the morning of the resurrection.

The boyar, meanwhile, had come quite close to the group ere he appeared
to perceive distinctly the cause of their distress. But no sooner had
he done so than he sprang from his horse, flinging the bridle to Ivan,
who proudly accepted the charge. The next moment he was bending over
the lifeless form; the next, he turned and said cheerfully to the
mujiks standing near,--

“My children, this is not death. We will save him yet.”

They were speechless with amazement. Was this stranger a holy saint,
a worker of miracles? They knew at least that he was a nobleman and
an officer, whom fortunately every instinct of their nature, every
habit of their lives, taught them to obey without a question. Rapidly
singling out two or three of the most intelligent-looking, he set them
to work--working with them himself as Ivan, used to the dawdling,
dreamy ways of the mujiks, had never in his life seen any one work
before. By magic, as it seemed, poor Stefen’s dripping clothes were
removed, and he was wrapped in the warmest garments the mujiks could
contribute for the purpose--Ivan, amongst others, gladly offering his
little sheepskin shuba. Then the cold and rigid limbs were gently
chafed, a work of time and patience. Those who were helping did
mechanically whatever they were directed to do, while the rest looked
on in a kind of wondering stupefaction. How could even a boyar expect
to bring a dead man to life?

After a considerable time had been spent in this manner, the whole
party from the post-house came up, boyars and servants, all on
horseback. Instead of calling upon their companion to join them, as
Ivan rather expected them to do, the boyars at once dismounted and
joined _him_, leaving their horses on the road in the care of the
servants. One of these drew near Ivan, and attempted to take his charge
from him; but he resisted.

“No,” he said. “My boyar’s hand gave this bridle into mine, and into no
other but his will I give it back again.”

“Let the boy alone, Ilya,” cried another of the attendants, with a
good-humoured laugh. “Let him keep his luck. It may not come twice in
his life-time.”

After that Ivan could not so easily see what was happening, though he
watched intently and with the keenest interest. “His boyar” seemed to
refer the matter, as to a person of superior authority, to a very tall,
very stern-looking individual, who examined Stefen carefully, putting
his hand on his heart and on his wrist. Presently, and rather to Ivan’s
horror, he drew from his pocket a sort of case, out of which there
flashed a bright instrument of steel, like a thin sharp knife, and with
this he proceeded to inflict a deep cut upon Stefen’s arm; while, far
from objecting, the young boyar carefully held it for him, and then
produced a fine white kerchief of his own, which he gave him to bind
the wound.[7]

But still the pale, cold form lay there stiff and motionless. Was
it death? or was it only a death-like swoon? It was the nobles who
were busy now, chafing the cold hands and feet, and using every other
possible means to restore animation; for the peasants had given place
to them, and stood aside, silent and wondering spectators of the scene.

Time passed: life and death were struggling for the mastery, and
the conflict was tedious and protracted. It was no even contest.
From the first, victory seemed to incline to the side of the sable
king. The chance of life, always desperate, lessened apparently
with every minute, and when the minutes grew to hours it seemed to
vanish altogether away. At last the tall surgeon shook his head, and
turning to the boyar said something in a foreign tongue that evidently
expressed despair. But _he_ would not admit the thought. Ivan knew not,
of course, what he said in answer, but it was easy to see that he had
steadfastly resolved not to abandon hope, and that he was entreating,
urging, even commanding the rest to continue their efforts.

Apparently for no purpose but to please him they obeyed. An interval
followed of renewed exertion, though of ever-waning hope. At length,
however, the surgeon’s instrument flashed out once more, and almost
immediately afterwards a thrill of emotion passed through the entire
group. One shuddering sigh, one faint, low groan was heard from the
lips that had seemed to be sealed for ever in death. “Thank God!” said
the boyar, raising the military cap from his stately head with its
clustering chestnut curls. “This is amongst the brightest days of my
life.” Ivan stood near enough to see that his blue eyes were full of
tears.

Whilst they gave Stefen a little vodka, and prepared a kind of litter
in which to carry him to the post-house, several other persons came up,
including the priest and the starost of the nearest village; for some
of the mujiks had gone away and spread the story of the strange things
they had been witnessing.

Then to Ivan’s young eyes the scene became confused. Much happened that
he could not exactly understand. But Stefen was alive--that at least
was certain, for he saw him try to kiss the hand that had so patiently
drawn him back from the gates of the grave. And now, for the first
time, the thought occurred to Ivan that his triumph over Michael would
be complete and glorious. Michael assuredly had never seen a dead man
brought to life again!

At last the great people seemed to be preparing to pursue their
journey. Ivan watched “his boyar” as he talked for some time to the
priest and the starost, who stood before him with uncovered heads and
an air of the deepest reverence; then, seeing him look for his horse,
he led his charge forward, and held the stirrup gracefully while he
mounted. He got a word of praise for his “long patience,” and a bright
piece of gold glittered in his hand.

“Take me with you, my boyar,” he cried, with a sudden impulse. “Let me
serve you; I would _love_ to do it.”

“My child, you shall serve me one day--not yet,” said the boyar,
smiling.

A few moments more, and the stately cavalcade had moved away. Ivan
stood in silence, unable to withdraw his gaze from the retreating
figure of his hero until it was lost in the distance.

The white-haired priest came up to him and laid his hand on his
shoulder. “My lad,” he said, “do you know who has spoken to you--whose
horse you have had the honour of holding?”

“Yes,” said Ivan, wakening out of a dream; “no--yes--at least I know it
was a boyar, a great, and good, and splendid boyar, with the face of an
angel. I love him!”

“Then pray for him all the days of thy life, for know that he is none
other than thy sovereign lord and mine, the Czar Alexander Paulovitch.”

Ivan stared, then burst out laughing. “You are jesting with me,” he
said. “Nay, father, I am only a boy, but I know better than that. I am
quite twelve years old, and I know very well that the Czar lives in St.
Petersburg, and wears a golden crown, and sits upon a throne, and all
the boyars stand uncovered around him.”

“Still, I tell thee truth. That handsome young officer was the great
Czar himself--the lord of all the Russias. To prove my words--I am a
poor man, but I will give thee twice, three times its value for that
coin in thy hand, which his hand touched.”

Ivan shook his head. “No, no, father; I don’t believe a word of your
story; but I love my boyar, and I will not give away his gift. He said
I should serve him one day, and I mean to do it. Though, to be sure,”
he added, thoughtfully, “I might almost part with it for poor Stefen’s
sake, and to do a good deed. How will he dare to meet his master’s
face--later than ever now?”

“Never trouble thyself for thy friend Stefen; he is rich enough this
day to buy his freedom, if he will. He who gave him back his life has
taken care to make that life worth the keeping.”

“Then he can marry Katinka?”

“He can marry whom he pleases. Our lord the Czar never leaves anything
half done.”

“Oh! what a good day it has been!” and Ivan, in his own estimation far
too old to be deceived by an idle story, was by no means too old to
leap and dance for very joy.

“You believe _that_,” said the priest; “then why do you doubt the rest
of my story?”

“Because,” returned Ivan, “I have wit enough to know that the great
Czar, who ‘is God upon earth,’ as the proverb says, would not care for
the life of a poor mujik, and toil hard to save it, as my boyar did
this day.”

“Well, fools will be fools while the world lasts. Here, take thy shuba;
Stefen left it for thee when they brought him to the post-house. Go thy
ways; and God teach thee that it shows more wit to believe what one is
told than to question it.”

“Good day, father,” returned Ivan; “I am going home--to Nicolofsky,
where people speak the truth to their neighbours.”

With this parting shaft, he drew on his shuba, and turned his steps
homewards, highly pleased with his adventure. What a story he would
have for the starost and mativshka, for Pope Nikita and one-eared
Michael, not to speak of Anna Popovna, by no means the least in his
estimation!

He crossed the river without delay--the ferry-boat and the penitent
ferryman being this time both in readiness--and then he resumed his
journey on foot. As he walked, he ate the remainder of his bread; for
he had tasted nothing that day, and it was now long past noon. With a
happy heart he pursued his way until about sunset, when fatigue obliged
him to stop and rest. He lay down under a solitary fir-tree, intending
only to indulge in a short--a _very_ short slumber. But nature
proved too strong for him: when he awoke again the sky was flushed
with the light of early dawn. The remainder of his task was quickly
accomplished: he walked into the starost’s cottage as the family were
sitting down to their morning meal of kasha, or stewed grain.

Warm was the welcome and great were the rejoicings that greeted his
appearance. The poor people had been sorely terrified by the mysterious
absence of their nursling, and they had sought him far and near,
through the birch-wood and the corn-fields, and even for some distance
in the waste. They were preparing to renew the search that day with
anxious and foreboding hearts.

Almost all Nicolofsky crowded to the starost’s cottage to congratulate
Ivan and to hear his wonderful story. Certainly, he had attained his
object, if that object was to make himself the hero of the village, and
totally and for ever to eclipse the exploits of Michael Ivanovitch!

But Ivan was no more the thoughtless little lad who set out two days
ago in search of adventures. His young heart had awakened from the
sleep of childhood; new feelings, vague and dimly comprehended, were
beginning to stir it. As he trod his homeward way, full of all the
wonders he had witnessed, a voice seemed to murmur within him, “And I,
too, am a boyar.” What did it mean to be a boyar? He had no words in
which to express his thought; but the dawning light of a grand truth,
faint and far off, shone upon him from the face of the first boyar
he had ever seen, as it bent anxiously and tenderly over the mujik’s
senseless form--that to be greater than all the rest meant to do good
to all the rest.

He told his adventures modestly and truthfully. What he had done with
his silver rouble he told no one, but he showed the gold piece that
had been given him with proud pleasure, and asked the starost to make
a hole in it, as he wished to keep it always, and to wear it on the
ribbon round his neck with the little iron cross put there at his
baptism.

He told what the priest had said to him, adding, however, “But of
course he was mocking me; no one could believe such a foolish story as
that.”

Every one present agreed with him, except Pope Nikita, who pondered
awhile, and then said thoughtfully, “Who knows? it may have been. After
all, One greater than the Czar put his hands upon the poor sick folk
and healed them.”[8]



CHAPTER IV.

IVAN’S HORIZON WIDENS.

  “Behind the orphan, God himself bears a purse.”--_Russian Proverb._


No child ever dreams of being grateful for food and shelter, unless
taught by the sad experience of destitution. The little guest expects
to be welcomed to the feast of life, and even assumes that the board
has been spread on purpose for him. Ivan was no exception to the
rule: hitherto he had received the devotion and tenderness of those
around him as a matter of course; perhaps indeed he was in danger of
exacting them as a right, and of becoming, as he grew older, proud and
overbearing. But now a change had come. If he knew that he was noble,
he had also gained a glimpse of the great truth that “Noblesse oblige.”
He had begun to reflect, and to some purpose.

“Bativshka,” he said one day to the starost, “why was it you were
afraid to let the lord Zoubof or the steward Dmitri know who I was?”

“Because they might have killed you, Barrinka, out of spite and
jealousy, knowing that your father was our lord before Zoubof came.”

“But would they have done anything to _you_, bativshka, for taking care
of me?”

“Oh! as to _that_ I don’t know. Perhaps I might have had the knout.”

Ivan bent down and kissed the old man’s hand.

The next morning, when the family rose early to begin the toils of the
harvest, Ivan rose with them. “I am going to the field,” he quietly
observed, putting on his oldest garments.

All protested, especially mativshka, whose love for her foster-child
amounted to weakness.

“Dmitri and Vasil and little Peter are going, and they are all younger
than I am,” said Ivan.

“But _they_ are only little mujiks,” she answered. “They must work hard
for their bit of rye bread and their bowl of kasha. It was for that God
made them.”

“Boyars work too;--I am a boyar,” said Ivan, raising his fair head
proudly; and he went with the rest.

To do him justice, he bore himself bravely in the field, although
the unaccustomed toil wearied him quickly, and it was tantalizing to
find himself so easily outdone by Michael’s stronger limbs and more
practised hands. Yet, after all, it was no great hardship to bind the
sheaves along with Anna Popovna all the morning, and at noon to share
with her his dinner of okroshka.[9]

But harvest-time does not last for ever. At length all the sheaves were
gathered in: the wheat to be sold for the profit of the lord of the
soil; the rye to be transformed into the black bread, the kvass, the
kasha, which were the staple of the mujik’s diet;--for, as they said
themselves in one of their terse though homely proverbs, “Wheat picks
and chooses, but Mother Rye feeds all fools alike.” Then the long blank
winter settled down over Nicolofsky, which, like the rest of Russia,
“lay numb beneath the snow” for many a month in the year.

During this silent, dreary season the industrious fingers of the girls
and women found occupation in spinning and weaving. The lads too made
lapti, wove rude baskets, and prepared firewood; and these occupations
were often pursued in social gatherings, and lightened with jest and
song and story. Still there was abundant leisure, in which the young
people amused themselves with games of babshky--little pieces of mutton
bone, which they used as English children use nine-pins--while their
elders sat beside the stoves, and too often enlivened their gossip with
much vodka. In this respect, however, Nicolofsky contrasted rather
favourably with other villages, since the starost and the pope were
both temperate men and set a good example.

They were great friends, and during their long confidential talks one
question often came uppermost, What was to be done with Ivan when
he grew up? In a country like Russia, where sons almost invariably
followed the calling of their fathers, and every man’s position was
assigned him by the fact of his birth, it was peculiarly difficult to
find a niche for a waif like Ivan. A mujik, of course, he could never
be; nor a priest, since he was not a popovitch, or priest’s son; nor
a merchant, that would have been a terrible degradation for one who
was born a boyar; nor a soldier, for his village friends had not the
influence necessary to procure him a commission, while had he been
drawn for a recruit they would at once have provided a substitute. But
Ivan was not old enough to share these perplexities. The knowledge that
he was by birth a boyar, with the desire, sincere though ignorant and
wavering, to be worthy of his destiny, sufficed him for the present.

Thus two long winters passed away. A second spring had come, heralded
by the eight days of drinking and carousing which the Russians call the
Mässlanitza, or “Butter-week.” Then the long fast went slowly by. At
last came the crown of the Russian year, with Easter eggs, and joyous
greetings, and manifold festivities.

One fine evening, a few weeks after, a kibitka, or rude one-horse
vehicle, drove up to the starost’s door. Its occupant, a well-dressed
man, whose hair and beard of iron gray showed him past the prime
of life, flung the rope that served him for a rein on the horse’s
neck, and entered the izba. He first made his reverence to the sacred
picture in the corner, then courteously saluted the starost and his
wife, who, without speaking, placed some bread and salt on a carved
wooden trencher and offered them to him. He tasted both; and this
indispensable ceremony performed, he began at once to make known his
errand.

“God save you, Alexis Vasilovitch!” he said to the starost. “Do you
chance to remember in your early youth one Feodor Petrovitch, who was
born here?”

“Feodor Petrovitch?” repeated the starost, stroking his beard
meditatively.

“Feodor Petrovitch?” cried his wife. “Yes, I think _I_ remember him.
Had he coal-black hair, and eyes like an eagle’s?”

“That he had; but the hair is now snow-white, and the eagle eyes--well,
no marvel, they served him fourscore years.--I am his eldest son, Ivan
Petrovitch.”

“Ah, I too remember him now!” said the starost, “though, like my wife,
I was but a child when he went away. Many a time our old folk have told
us how our good lord, Prince Pojarsky, the last but one, took such
notice of him on account of his bright face and clever ways--how he had
him taught to read and write and to count up money. At last he took him
away somewhere, so that after he came to man’s estate Nicolofsky knew
him no more.”

“All quite true. The prince sent him to Moscow, and when his education
was finished he gave him a sum of money to trade with. My father
quickly doubled it; and, unlike most men, he brought every kopeck
honestly to his lord. ‘Go on and prosper,’ said the prince. ‘Take
that money with thee and double it again.’ He did so. Then said the
prince, ‘Feodor Petrovitch, thou hast paid me thy last obrok. From this
day thou art free.’ He divided the money into two parts, declaring
himself well satisfied with half, and leaving the other half to my
father to start with on his own account. Large hearts had the Princes
of Pojarsky, one and all, God rest their souls! From that day all
things prospered with my father; and now he and his have silver and
gold more than enough for their needs. For he has sons and sons’ sons,
all prosperous--one here and one there, as God wills. About fifteen
days ago, tidings reached him, through Dmitri, Zoubof’s steward, which
filled his aged heart with joy. The grandson of our lord is living
still, and among you. I am come the bearer of my father’s earnest
prayer that you would give the boy to him. It will be his pride and
pleasure to have him taught all that a young noble ought to know, and
so to maintain and provide for him that he may go without shame among
his equals, and live the kind of life that is right for such as he.
And I, the son of Petrovitch, say that therein my father will do well.
Since every rouble and kopeck we have came from Prince Pojarsky, it is
right that some should go back to his heir. But my father prays of you
to send him the little lad at once, while yet he can see his face, for
God’s hand is fast drawing down a curtain over his aged eyes. What say
you, Starost Alexis Vasilovitch?”

The starost paused. At length he said firmly, though in a broken
voice--“That we love our little lord too well not to send him with
you--ay, and that thankfully, though it wrings our hearts to part with
him. Ah! here he comes himself.--Ivan Barrinka, this good man will take
you with him to Moscow the holy, and make of you that which it is your
birthright to be.”

Petrovitch gazed admiringly on the tall, graceful figure of the
handsome lad, now about fourteen, and looking considerably older.
“Praise be to God!” he said. “That is a goodly shoot from the old stem.”

Ivan’s face changed rapidly from pale to red, and from red again to
pale. At last he said, “Bativshka, I will do what _you_ think I ought.”

“Then, dear child, you will go from us; for like should ever dwell with
like.”

But the old foster-mother lifted up her voice in lamentation, mingling
her tears for her “little dove,” her nursling, her treasure, with
regrets that his shirts were not in order, that the new socks they had
been knitting for him in the winter were not finished, and that his
boots wanted mending.

“We will see to all that in the city, good mother,” said Petrovitch,
unable to repress a smile, as he pictured the extraordinary
transformation Ivan’s outer man would have to undergo before he could
take his pleasure in the Kremlin gardens with the _élite_ of Moscow
society.

Hospitality is a plant that flourishes luxuriantly in Russian soil,
and seems to find the smoky atmosphere of the izba as congenial as the
clearer air of the palace. It was with great difficulty that Petrovitch
could fix his departure for the next day but one; but a single day of
rest for himself and of preparation for Ivan was all that the starost’s
importunities could obtain from him, since he knew his father’s anxiety
about the result of his mission.

That evening, in the starost’s cottage, there was much baking of
wheaten bread, of cakes called kissel, and of greasy, indigestible
pastry called pirogua. There was also a great slaughter,--a sheep, a
couple of sucking pigs, and quite a multitude of fowls were sacrificed
on the altar of hospitality; for the whole of Nicolofsky would no doubt
_assist_ at the festival of the next day, not in the French, but in
the English sense of the word. Huge buckets of kvass were of course
prepared; and it might have been better if this harmless beverage had
not been supplemented by a plentiful supply of vodka.

Next day began, not unworthily, with a service in the church, a kind of
farewell to Ivan and compliment to Petrovitch. But its remaining hours
were wholly given up to revelry, and it is to be feared that but few
sober men went to rest that night in Nicolofsky. Meanwhile Ivan bade
farewell to the friends and playfellows of his childhood. With Anna
Popovna his parting was a tearful one. He kissed her again and again,
and vowed that he would come back and marry her as soon as his beard
was grown.

“God be praised!” said her mother, who was standing by. “See how St.
Nicholas protects the innocent, and will not let him take the sin of a
false vow upon his soul! He does not dream, poor child, that his beard
will never grow at all, since he is born a boyar, who will have to
shave it off every morning--worse luck for him.”

But the saddest and most tender farewells were spoken at daybreak
on the following morning, when Ivan was kissed and wept over by his
foster-parents, and by all their immediate family. His own eyes were
dim as he took his place in the kibitka beside Petrovitch; and when he
turned to look his last upon the brown cottages of Nicolofsky, he could
scarcely see them through his tears.

“But the winds of the morn blew away the tear.” By-and-by Ivan cheered
up a little. He roused himself to listen to his companion’s stories of
the great city, and began to be interested, and even to ask questions.

There was not much in the incidents of their journey to engage or rivet
his attention. They crossed the Oka upon a raft--horse, kibitka, and
all--but not at the spot so well remembered by Ivan as the scene of
his adventure. After that came the long monotonous Moscow road, where
everything seemed to Ivan always the same. Only that his senses assured
him he was moving, and that rapidly, he would have fancied himself
fixed in the centre of the same horizon, which was revolving around him
eternally and unchangingly. Plains of sand, forests of birch or pine,
went by in endless succession, merely diversified here and there by
some pasture lands, or by a brown village built upon the pattern of
Nicolofsky. On one occasion, however, they passed a company of horsemen
carrying long lances, and clad in gray cloaks, with ample hoods drawn
over their heads.

“Who are these?” Ivan asked with interest.

“Cossacks. I suppose they are going to join the army. They had better
have stayed at home now that peace is being made with the French. That
unlucky peace!” he grumbled, touching his horse rather unnecessarily
with his long whip.

“Why do you say that? I thought peace was always a good thing. We have
a proverb in Nicolofsky, ‘A bad peace is better than a good quarrel.’”

“A bad peace with your enemies sometimes means a worse quarrel with
your best friends.--On, my little pope! Now, now, my beauty, my
darling, mind what you are about. Gee up, you barbarian!” This to his
horse, the wheel of the kibitka having stuck fast in a deep rut. A
touch of the whip, this time in earnest, and the horse bounded on,
freeing the wheel with a jolt that brought Ivan to his feet, and
shook peace and war alike out of his thoughts. But Petrovitch, more
accustomed to the ordinary incidents of travel, presently resumed the
thread of his discourse.

“What does peace with France mean? War with England, for one thing.
And that--what does that mean? Our ports shut up, our trade destroyed.
No market for our timber, our corn, our tallow, our furs. Ruin, ruin!”
groaned the merchant.

“I have heard of France,” said Ivan. “But England--what is that?”

“England is a great, rich, beautiful country, with the sea like a wall
of defence built by the hand of God all around it. The King of England
hates Napoleon, and has sworn before the picture of his saint never to
make peace with him.”

“I have heard of Napoleon too,” said Ivan. “The recruits who left our
village said they were going to fight against him. Pope Nikita thinks
he is a magician.”

“Pope Nikita thinks truly. It is said he has for his wife a beautiful
lady named Josephine, who transforms herself at will into the likeness
of a white dove, flies into the midst of his enemies, hears all they
say, and comes back and tells her lord.[10] No one can resist him; the
Emperor of Austria and the King of Prussia are both at his feet, and he
has conquered all the other kings and dukes of the Nyemtzi, except the
King of England.”

“But the Czar--why does not the Czar send his soldiers and tell them to
kill him?” queried Ivan.

“Not so easy!” Petrovitch answered with a short laugh. “However, there
is little to be said after all. Russia has fought him long and well. If
the devil helps his own, what can good orthodox Christians do? Think of
Austerlitz, Eylau, Friedland--blood and tears have flowed in torrents.
I know a widow who lost her two sons at Austerlitz. Another;--but why
speak of these things? War is always terrible.”

“Then why don’t you wish for peace?”

“A _good_ peace might be very desirable, but save us from a peace that
will ruin our commerce!” cried Petrovitch with energy. “The Czar has
evil counsellors around him who are persuading him to that sort of
peace. Perhaps, indeed, Napoleon has bewitched him with his sorceries.
Who knows?”

Having thus uttered, not merely his own sentiments, but those of Moscow
and her merchants upon the subject of the Treaty of Tilsit, at that
time in progress, Petrovitch relapsed into silence. The only part of
his discourse that greatly impressed Ivan happened also to be the
only part of it which had not at least a considerable substratum of
truth--the story of the beautiful lady who could transform herself into
a white dove. The rest he understood very partially.

After a journey of many days, a happy change came over the spirit
of what had almost seemed to Ivan a long and dismal dream. The
dreary expanse of sandy waste was succeeded by a green, fertile,
well-cultivated plain, diversified by the gentle slope of wooded hills
and the gleam of a winding river.

At last, one evening, they reached the summit of a lofty eminence.
Petrovitch, who was on foot leading the horse, turned suddenly to Ivan,
and said in a tone of solemnity, “Take off thy cap, Ivan Barrinka, take
off thy cap, and thank God for thy first sight of holy Moscow!”

Any traveller might have thanked God for the beauty of that sight.
Dome and cupola, minaret and tower, shone beneath them in the evening
sunshine, giving back its rays with dazzling brightness from their
gilded tops; and some there were which flamed like balls of fire
suspended in the air. The brightest and most varied of colours--green,
purple, crimson, blue--relieved and diversified the gleaming gold of
the cupolas and the burnished lead of the roofs, which looked like
silver. Beyond the bewildering glories of the Kremlin, whose feet
were kissed by the bright waters of the winding Moskva, the great
city stretched away into the distance. To the eye there was no limit:
streets and squares and gardens, gardens and streets and squares;
here a castle, there a blooming terrace; yonder a painted gateway,
everywhere light and colour, and shining metallic surfaces that
reflected the sun. “Forty times forty churches” pointed upwards with
their “silent fingers,” as if to remind the dwellers in that city of
palaces of the yet fairer city which is eternal in the heavens, even
the new Jerusalem, with its streets of gold and gates of pearl.

Ivan crossed himself. “Beautiful! beautiful!” he murmured, as he gazed
like one entranced on the scene before him.

“Upon God’s earth there is no spot like that,” said Petrovitch,
stretching forth his hand and pointing to the city. “‘If I forget thee,
Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.’ God keep Moscow the
holy, Moscow the beautiful, the ancient city of the Czar, the fairest
jewel of his crown, the apple of his eye!”



CHAPTER V.

PETROVITCH.

  “Oh, but soon ye read in stories
    Of the men of long ago;
  And the pale, bewildering glories
    Shining farther than ye know.”


Our travellers had still a long drive before them after they entered
the stately gate called “the Gate of Triumph.” The ancient capital of
the Czars enclosed, within the vast circumference of its painted walls,
gardens, orchards, terraces, even parks and pleasure-grounds, in this
as in other ways resembling an Eastern city. In due time, however,
the merchants’ quarter was reached, and Ivan Petrovitch drew rein
before the gateway of a long, low, wooden building, or rather range of
buildings, painted in various colours. He was evidently expected and
watched for; quite a crowd of men, women, and children, servants or
members of the family, hurried out to meet him, and his young companion
shared the welcome and the greetings that followed. Ivan Petrovitch,
however, took him by the hand, saying to those who were pressing around
them, “Stand back, brothers and sisters; no one should speak to the
little lord until he has been presented to our father.”

He led Ivan into a spacious room or hall, of which the furniture,
though far from answering to Western ideas of comfort, showed
conclusively that wealth was not lacking, for vessels of silver, rugs
of costly fur, and rich Turkish carpets were there in abundance. But
Ivan scarcely noticed anything, except the great arm-chair at the
upper end and the venerable figure of its occupant. “My father,” said
the younger Petrovitch, as he gently placed the boy directly in front
of him, “I have brought thee our little lord.”

The old man rose slowly from his chair, leaning upon his staff. His
hair was white as snow, and so was the beard which reached nearly down
to his waist. His large, dark eyes, once so full of fire, were dim with
age, but an ardent soul glanced forth from them even yet, and they
had, moreover, a wistful, pathetic look, as if seeking the light which
was fading from them. “God be gracious to thee, Prince Ivan Ivanovitch
Pojarsky,” he said solemnly, laying his hand on the young fair head
which was bowed before him in instinctive reverence. Then he kissed the
boy, and having seated himself once more in his chair, drew him close
and examined his features. “Like his grandfather, my dear friend and
master,” he said at last.

It was evident, from the silence which followed, that thoughts of other
days came crowding fast upon the old man’s memory. But he soon aroused
himself from his reverie to bid Ivan welcome to Moscow, and to commend
him to the care of the members of his family who had gathered around
them.

These now came forward, drew Ivan gently away, and lavished upon him
every kindness and attention that could be devised. He was charmed with
his new friends, and quickly and easily took his place as the honoured
guest of the great heterogeneous household united beneath the roof of
its venerable head. There were sons and sons’ sons, daughters-in-law
and grand-daughters, and quite a tribe of servants, forming altogether
a little clan rather than a family. This large household had all the
necessaries of life in abundance, and many of its luxuries, though only
such as the old Muscovite manners and traditions fully sanctioned. For
Petrovitch was an autocrat in his own house, though usually a just and
generous one. Woe to the son or grandson of his who should presume
to “deface the image of God” by shaving his beard, to exchange his
caftan for a French paletôt, or to lose his roubles and peril his soul
at the fashionable game of loto! This strong personal government was
the secret of the domestic peace which, on the whole, prevailed in the
household, notwithstanding the many different elements of which it was
composed.

There was only one person who ventured to take liberties with the
patriarch--to tease him, coax him, sometimes even jest with him, always
to claim his caresses as a matter of right, not, like the others, as a
rare, occasional favour. This was little Feodor, a bright, black-eyed
boy about three years younger than Ivan. The mother of this favourite
grandson had been the only daughter of Petrovitch, and she was dead.
Much of the old man’s heart was in the grave with her, nor could his
seven brave and prosperous sons wholly supply her place.

Ivan’s first days in Moscow were spent in viewing its wonders, under
the guidance of one or other of the Petrovitch family. Feodor was often
with him, and soon became his particular friend; for his playfellows
at Nicolofsky having been dull and slow, the overflowing merriment of
his new acquaintance was a welcome change. He was shown the marvels of
the Kremlin,--its palace, its three cathedrals, its bell-tower of Ivan
Veliki, to the top of which he ascended and beheld the panorama of the
city stretched out beneath him like a picture. He saw also the great
Cathedral of St. Basil, in the “Beautiful” Place outside the Kremlin
wall. He saw the Chinese city and the dwellings of the Tartars; he
wandered through the streets and rows of the Grand Bazaar. In fact, he
saw so many wonderful things that his power of wondering was exhausted,
and he soon ceased to be much impressed by any of them.

Each time that he returned from one of these expeditions, old
Petrovitch would call him to his side, and make him sit where he could
see his face. One evening he said to him, “God make thee as brave and
true as thine ancestor, the great Prince Pojarsky, who delivered Moscow
from the Poles.”

“Who was he? I have never heard of him,” said Ivan.

“Is that possible? Poor child! did no one ever tell thee that story, so
glorious for thee and thine? Know, then, that about two hundred years
ago the Poles conquered holy Russia. The whole country was at their
feet, in great misery and trouble, and no man dared resist them. Prince
Pojarsky lay on his bed in his own castle, sick as it seemed unto
death. But God put it into the heart of a poor man working at his trade
in Moscow, a butcher named Minim, to save his country. He first went to
all the great people of the city and of the surrounding country, and
got them to promise men and money. Then he went to Prince Pojarsky,
and stood before him like a messenger from God. ‘Rise,’ he said; ‘go
forth and conquer the Poles. God will strengthen thee.’ ‘But soldiers
are needed, and arms,’ said the prince. ‘All are ready,’ answered the
courageous citizen. The prince arose from his bed of sickness, and,
trusting in God, put himself at the head of the men of Moscow. He
gained a glorious victory, and the sword of the Poles was broken for
ever in Muscovy. That is the man whose name you bear, and whose blood
is flowing in your veins, Prince Ivan Pojarsky!”

“He was splendid!” said Ivan with kindling eyes; “I am proud to bear
his name.”

Petrovitch felt shocked by the disclosure of Ivan’s ignorance of the
history of his native country, that country which was to himself the
object of proud and passionate love.

“Can it be,” he said to him the next day--“can it be that no one has
ever even told you about the great Czar Peter?”

“I have heard of the Czar Peter,” said Ivan: “he ordered all the mujiks
to cut off their beards, threatening to cut off their heads if they
refused. ‘God will make your beards grow again,’ he said; ‘but will he
do the same for your heads?’”

Petrovitch built a long and interesting narrative upon this very
meagre foundation of historical knowledge. He had little Feodor for a
listener as well as Ivan, and the intelligent questions of the boys
drew out the information he loved to impart. Especially graphic was
his account of the Swedish defeat at Pultowa, and the horrors of the
retreat that followed--horrors that seem to have prefigured those of a
yet more awful retribution near at hand, though still wrapped in the
mysterious veil of the future.

  “File after file the stormy showers benumb,
  Freeze every standard sheet, and hush the drum;
  Yet ere he sank in nature’s last repose,
  Ere life’s warm torrent to the fountain froze,
  The dying man to Sweden turned his eye,
  Thought of his home, and closed it with a sigh:
  Imperial pride looked sullen on his plight,
  And Charles beheld, nor shuddered at the sight.”

Then, gradually bringing down the narrative to more recent times, he
told of the great Czarina Catherine--of the splendours of her court
and the triumphs of her arms--especially of the conquest of Poland,
in his partial eyes only a just retribution for the past wrongs, and
a glorious achievement of the prowess of holy Russia. At last, though
with some reserve, he spoke of the short, sad reign of the Czar Paul.
“God sent him for our sins,” he said.

This reserve only piqued the curiosity of the boys.

“It is true he wrought much evil,” he admitted, in answer to their
questions; “but still his heart was good. It was his head that went
astray. Oh, my children, there are sorrows in the world darker than you
have ever dreamed of! Seems it sad to you to sit as I do now, and see
the beautiful light of God’s world fading from me day by day? What is
that to the desolation, the anguish, when God lays his hand upon the
immortal light within and turns it into darkness? The Czar Paul was not
himself when he sent half his nobles to Siberia, shut up his own son
in prison and threatened his life--ay, even the life of the Empress.
His true self fought long against the demon that possessed him. Many
a time did he listen to his son, though he never loved him, when he
dared bravely to plead for and shelter the victims of his wrath. More
than once he said regretfully, after some unusual outburst of violence,
‘I wish I had consulted the Grand Duke Alexander.’ But such a state of
things could not go on. The end came.”

“What was the end, dädushka?” queried Ivan. (Dädushka, “little
grandfather,” the term of endearment constantly used by Feodor, was
often adopted by Ivan.)

“Do not ask me of the end,” said the old man very sorrowfully. “It was
said in official proclamations, it is still written in printed books,
that ‘the Czar Paul Petrovitch died of apoplexy.’ But all the world
knows that is false. Some there are, too, who will have cause to know
it when they come to stand before the judgment-seat of God.”

“He was murdered,” said Feodor with decision. “That is what _I_ have
always heard.”

“Were the people sorry for him, or glad of his death?” asked Ivan.

“Glad exceedingly. They were delivered from a reign of terror. Yet
there were men who loved the Czar Paul truly--who love him still,
and will take that love with them to the grave. One such I know--my
good friend and patron, from whom I have received many favours, Count
Rostopchine. He kept proudly aloof from the court of the new Czar,
would hold no communication with him, and take no favour from his
hands--hands which, he dared to hint, were not pure from the stain of
a father’s blood. When the great battle of Austerlitz was lost, Count
Rostopchine said, ‘God would not prosper the arms of a bad son.’”

“How angry the Czar must have been!” said Ivan. “He ought to have sent
him to Siberia, to repent of his insolence.”

“He did not send him to Siberia, nor have I heard that he was angry. It
is the guilty who are angry, and from that stain the soul of Alexander
Paulovitch is white as the snow from heaven.--Of the necessity of
removing the Czar Paul from the government, and placing him under
restraint, there was no shadow of doubt; and to that he had given his
consent--_only to that_. When he knew what had been done, his horror
and anguish were unbounded. At last he was not so much persuaded as
compelled to take up the blood-stained sceptre which the conspirators
laid at his feet. I saw him myself, on the day of his coronation,
yonder in the Cathedral of the Assumption, and sadder face have I never
seen upon living man than that young handsome face of his. Often yet I
seem to see it, and to hear the very tones of his voice, as, kneeling
before the altar, he recited the solemn coronation prayer: ‘May I be
in a condition to answer thee without fear in the day of thy dreaded
judgment, by the merits and grace of Jesus Christ thy Son, whose
name is glorified for ever with thine, and with that of thy holy and
life-giving Spirit.’ God fulfil that prayer! Amen.”

A brief silence succeeded the sublime words, uttered so reverently; but
presently the old man resumed:--

“Six short years only have passed since then; but I charge you two, who
are children now, to lay up in your hearts the things that have been
done in them, and to tell them to your children and your children’s
children. The Czar Alexander Paulovitch has freed the Press, has
abolished the secret police, has refused to make use of spies. He has
utterly forbidden every kind of torture as a blot upon humanity. He has
also forbidden the confiscation of hereditary property.”[11]

“Dädushka”--it was Ivan who spoke now--“I do not understand what
you are talking about. What are those things which you say he has
forbidden?”

“Ah, child, I forgot. So little do you know as yet of wrong and
cruelty, that the story of the efforts to redress them falls without
meaning on your ear. But the young do well to remember much they
cannot understand. As for me, I was born a serf, like my father and my
father’s father; and these lips of mine shall be silent in the grave
ere they forget to praise Alexander Paulovitch. Before his time we were
bought and sold like the beasts of the field. You might read a notice
in the window of a shop, ‘To be sold:--An active and capable servant,
and a good milch cow. Inquire within.’ This he forbade; forbidding also
the removal of peasants from the land. He permits and encourages the
nobles to set their serfs at liberty whenever they will; and if they
are without land, he himself advances them money to purchase their
homesteads. He has deprived their lords of the dangerous privilege of
sending them to Siberia without a trial; nor dare any one, however
rich or great, use his serfs with harshness or cruelty. Amongst many
stories of his interference on behalf of the oppressed, I remember one
concerning a great lady, whose name I will not tell you, as she lives
in this city. From that love of money which the priests tell us is a
root of all evil, she neglected her sick and aged serfs, and allowed
them to suffer from want. The Czar heard of it, and he sent his own
physician to minister to these poor suffering peasants, whom no man
cared for. Dr. Wylie--so they call him--a shrewd, clever Scotchman,
took care to order his patients so many expensive remedies and comforts
that the princess, by the time she had paid for wine and wheaten flour,
and I know not what besides, had also learned the useful lesson that
nothing costs so dear in the long run as a duty neglected. Nor has
the Czar given the mujik that which costs him nothing. He refuses
absolutely to grant men as serfs to his courtiers; and thus he has
dried up the unfailing stream of wealth wherewith all the Czars that
went before him have enriched and rewarded their servants without
impoverishing themselves. God give it back to him in the prayers
of the poor! Moreover, I have heard that every year, out of his own
treasure, he lays by one million of roubles to aid in the fulfilment of
his beloved and cherished dream--to make the body of every mujik on the
soil of holy Russia as free as his soul is already in the sight of God.”

The rapt, kindling expression of his face as he spoke thus impressed
the children deeply. He seemed to be gazing far away into some “white
starry distance” where he could see the fruition of that glorious
dream. But gradually the light faded, and the shadow passed once more
over the aged face.

“Who shall see that day?” he murmured sadly. “Not the old; their work
is quickly over, while God’s work goes on but slowly. No, not the old;
they are content to lie down in hope, waiting for what God will let
them see in the resurrection morning. But the young.--He is young yet,
this Czar God has given us, whose youthful dreams are not of pleasure,
or conquest, or glory, but of loosing the heavy burdens, letting the
oppressed go free, and breaking every yoke. Shall it be given to him to
see the desire of his heart? It may be--before his hairs are white as
mine. But it may not. I have heard the priests say that, after all, it
was not Moses who led the children of Israel into the Promised Land.”

Ivan and Feodor waited in respectful silence until his reverie was
over. Then Ivan began to question him upon a subject about which he was
interested, and indeed perplexed.

“Dädushka, why do you seem to think the Czar ought not to have made
this peace with Napoleon for which all the bells in the city have been
ringing?”

“There be many reasons, boy--good reasons and bad, noble reasons and
selfish. Of the selfish reasons I need not tell you. You are now
surrounded by merchants; you will soon be surrounded by nobles. No
doubt you will hear lamentations enough from both--for the luxuries
wherewith English commerce supplied the tables of the one, and the
gold with which it filled the purses of the other. But what, perhaps,
you will never hear, is the truth that lies buried beneath that
stream of idle talk. Have you ever, in Nicolofsky, listened on winter
nights to the low howling of the wolves amidst the snow? There is a
horrible story I remember hearing in my childhood about a woman--a
mother--who was making a winter journey in her sledge with her five
little ones. Perhaps you too know the tale? The famished pack with
their demon voices howled around her sledge. To save all the rest, as
she fondly dreamed, she sacrificed one child, her youngest. Then a
moment of respite, a verst or two gained upon the savage pursuers--a
wild, fleeting gleam of hope. Then--_then_;--but I need not go on. She
reached her journey’s end alone, to die the next day, accursed and
broken-hearted.[12] Forget the story if you can, but remember the awful
lesson. The taste for blood grows with what it feeds on, and the doom
of the coward only comes the more quickly from his guilty efforts to
avert it. The French are wolves, and Napoleon is a demon. Already has
he devoured the nations of Germany, and it has but whetted his appetite
for fresh victims. He deceives the Czar--who is young, and likes to
think others as true and generous as himself--with his offers of peace.
But the peace he offers is only from the lip out; for he hates us, and
he will never cease to hate us. Why not? We stand upright, while the
other nations--all except the English--bow down and kiss his feet. But
they are all infidels, those Frenchmen. They believe neither in God,
nor saint, nor devil. Therefore I think that if we had put our trust
in God, and gone to war with them again, he would have protected holy
Russia, the land of his people and of his orthodox Church.”

Old Petrovitch, in speaking thus, expressed the thoughts and feelings
of the mass of his countrymen. They were ignorant and superstitious,
but they were devout. They believed in “the God of Russia,” and in the
Czar as the first of his servants. A time was drawing near when this
belief of theirs should be tried in the furnace heated seven times. The
trial proved beyond a doubt that metal was there, genuine and enduring;
but how much was the pure gold of faith, and how much the iron of a
fierce fanaticism? There is one test potent to divide between the gold
and the iron. The fanatic may endure like a martyr and fight like a
hero; but when the battle is past, and the victory won, he will trample
on the fallen like a tyrant;--for his God is the God of vengeance. But
while the man of faith can suffer and fight, and that with a heroism
as undaunted, he can also pardon;--for his God is the God of mercy,
and He whose “right hand holds him up” makes him “great” with “His
gentleness.”



CHAPTER VI.

IVAN’S EDUCATION.

    “Our young people think they know everything when they have
    learned to dance and to speak French.”--_Words of the Emperor
    Alexander, quoted by Madame de Choiseul-Gouffier._


Petrovitch the merchant would have thought himself greatly lacking
in his duty towards Ivan the boyar if he had suffered him to remain
beneath his roof. As soon as he had provided him with a fashionable
outfit--that is to say, an outfit composed of garments fashionable in
Paris three seasons previously--he transferred him to the palace of a
widowed lady of rank who had promised to act as his guardian. He was to
associate with her sons, and to share with them the instructions of the
French tutor whose services were then considered indispensable to every
young Russian of noble birth. For these advantages Petrovitch paid very
liberally: in many families, even of the highest position, good silver
roubles were not as plentiful as they were desirable, and were not
likely to be rejected when they presented themselves for acceptance.

Feodor was deputed to accompany Ivan to his new home, since the elder
members of the family did not care to present themselves. It must be
owned that the little Russian, in his glossy blue caftan of the finest
cloth and his bright silken sash, had the advantage of his companion,
who looked as awkward as a naturally graceful boy could contrive to do
with his limbs confined in the tightest of French garments.

Having reached the stately painted gateway of the Wertsch family
mansion or palace, the two boys were admitted by the porter and led
across an ample courtyard into a large saloon furnished in a manner
utterly strange to Ivan. As no one was there, he had time to indulge
his wonder and curiosity. Chairs and tables, divans and ottomans, with
many other objects, of the uses of which he had not the slightest
conception, were scattered about in profusion; the woodwork was painted
rose-colour or lilac, and lavishly adorned with gilding, while the
numerous cushions were covered with a kind of tapestry of a shining
gray. At one side of the room a row of slender shafts, rose-coloured
and tipped with gold, supported climbing-plants in luxuriant flower;
at the other, three large windows looked out upon the terrace and the
pleasure-grounds beyond it. Ivan thought these windows were open, and
was stepping confidently towards one of them, when Feodor pulled him
back with a laugh. “Take care, Prince Ivan,” he said; “that is one
great sheet of glass. I have seen such before; they cost--oh, I know
not how many roubles. But come, let us look at the orangery;” and he
pointed to a trellised door at the farther end of the room.

Here a fairy scene met their view. Oranges gleamed amidst dark glossy
foliage like “golden lamps hid in a night of green;” heavy clusters
of grapes, purple and amber, hung high above their heads; peaches,
apricots, and plums ripened temptingly beside them--for in that
ungenial climate many fruits that grow elsewhere in the open air
require the protection of glass. Wonderful was the wealth of flowers,
all of which were new to Ivan. Sheets of blossom--gold, and purple, and
scarlet, azure, and creamy white--wooed his delighted gaze; and ever
and anon he paused as some rare peculiar beauty, rose or lily, geranium
or costly orchid, attracted his eye with the richness of its colouring
or the grace of its form.

But this was not the first “orangery” (all greenhouses were then
called orangeries in Russia) which Feodor had seen, and he had no
objection to show off his larger experiences before his senior and
his superior in rank. He could even name to him a few of the flowers.
“Look here,” he said, as he paused before a plant laden with clusters
of graceful bells, their dark crimson sheaths half concealing cups of
white faintly tinged with rose-colour; “that is called fuchsia. There
is one of the same kind in the Kremlin gardens. Last winter’s frost
nearly killed it; but it lives still--a thick, stunted, hardy bush,
with little red flowers, as unlike as possible to this one. That is
like me, and this one before us is like you, Prince Ivan. You are
going to be put in the orangery, because you were born a boyar; while
I am left outside in the frost and snow. After all, I had rather be
myself than you. It is hot here in the orangery, and there is not room
enough--one could not run or play in comfort.”

He was about to try the experiment by indulging in a race from one
end of the tiled passage to the other, when a strange figure was seen
approaching them. It was that of a young lad with flat, ugly Tartar
features, and very fantastically dressed. He was one of those Calmucks
whom the Russian nobility had a singular fancy for keeping in their
houses as pets; although, as they grew up, they often proved very
troublesome to their patrons. With a grin and a bow he informed the
boys that the countess was ready to receive them, and invited them
to follow him into her presence. Having passed once more through the
saloon, they entered a boudoir richly furnished and adorned with
hangings of blue and silver. An elderly lady, dressed in exaggerated
French fashion, reclined on a couch. Her appearance was not improved
by two rows of teeth dyed an ebony hue, a curious Russian custom of
the period. She played with a fan, which was rather useless in that
climate, while she conversed in French with two gentlemen in frock
coats who sat near her. When Ivan entered, she languidly extended her
hand, glittering with jewelled rings, and addressed some words to him
in the same tongue. He looked embarrassed, but the ready Feodor came to
his aid. “Pas Français, madame,” he said.

The Countess Wertsch accordingly condescended to the use of her native
language, in which she bade Ivan welcome cordially enough. She then
gave him a French _bonbonnière_, and told him to help himself and
his companion to its contents, while she continued her conversation
with her guests. Ivan could not help thinking, from the manner of the
speakers, that this conversation had reference to himself, and he
was beginning to grow hot and uncomfortable, when Feodor effectually
diverted his thoughts by taking out his pocket-knife and cutting upon
one of the bonbons--a large almond covered with chocolate--a striking
likeness of the countess’s rather peculiar face. He was on the point of
indulging in a laugh which might have had awkward consequences, when a
young man, dressed _à la française_, and carrying in his hand a long
pipe tipped with amber, lounged into the room.

“This is Adrian, my eldest son,” said the countess, turning to Ivan.
“You are to be fellow-students, so you ought to be friends.--Adrian,
this is Prince Ivan Pojarsky.”

Adrian made a bow, and addressing himself to Ivan, asked if he had seen
the new piece at the French theatre.

Ivan, who thought he meant a new part of the building, answered with
simplicity, “I do not know; everything I see here is alike new to me.”

“Then I shall have the pleasure of introducing you to a great many
things,” said Adrian, with a smile, and, by way of a further overture
of friendship, he took out and presented a jewelled snuff-box. Ivan
supposed this to be another kind of _bonbonnière_; but fortunately for
himself he was not attracted either by the look or the odour of its
contents, and declined with thanks.

At length the older guests took their leave, and the countess turned
her attention to the boys. She seemed struck with the appearance
of Ivan’s little companion, and asked him many questions, which he
answered with a grace and sprightliness that interested her still
further.

“I should like to keep both of you,” she said to Feodor. “Will you stay
with me, and become my little page of honour? I will have you taught
French, and you shall be always with your friend Prince Ivan.”

“I thank you, madame,” Feodor answered gravely. “But I cannot
leave my grandfather. I belong to him, and I will stay with him
always--_always_,” he repeated with earnestness.

“But, my little lad, your grandfather is very old. Some day he will
die, and then what will become of you?”

“When he dies, I will die too,” said Feodor resolutely, with a glow in
his dark eyes.

“Wait, boy, till you are ten years older,” laughed Adrian, “and for no
man in the world will you say as much as that. As for a woman--well, I
know not; you may have your fever-fit like another, and get over it,
and laugh at it.”

Feodor gave him a surprised, incredulous look, and repeated quietly,
“When he dies, I will die too.” Then, turning to the countess, he took
his leave in words he had been carefully instructed to use: “May I be
permitted to kiss your hand, madame? My grandfather will expect me at
home.”

She responded graciously, and asked Adrian to take him into the
orangery and give him some fruit. Ivan went with them, being anxious
to see the last of his little friend. They passed a half-opened door,
which the boys had not noticed before. Within was a kind of oratory:
sacred pictures glittered in frames of gold and silver adorned
with jewels, and lights were burning before them in massive silver
candlesticks. Adrian turned in, but not to make his reverence, as
the boys supposed. On the contrary, he deliberately used one of the
candles to light his pipe. Ivan and Feodor were both horrified, and
Ivan said, “How can you do that? The saint will be angry, and some harm
will happen to you.”

“My dear innocent babe, when you know a little more you will believe
a little less. Ah, here comes _Mousié_, our French professor.--M.
Thomassin, here is your new pupil, Prince Ivan Ivanovitch Pojarsky.”

A dapper little Frenchman glided noiselessly towards them, and bowed
profoundly. But the ceremony of introduction accomplished, Adrian went
off with him, much to the relief of the boys, whom he left in the
charge of a servant, bidding him supply Feodor plentifully with fruit.

That day was the beginning of a new life for Ivan. His versatile,
imitative Russian nature stood him in good stead. Ashamed of his
ignorance of what Adrian and Leon Wertsch knew so well, and perhaps
with the same feelings of emulation towards them as of old towards
Michael, he devoted his quick intelligence and his retentive memory to
two branches of study,--the French language and the art of reading. The
average Russian is a remarkably good linguist, and Ivan was much more
than an average Russian. It very soon became unsafe for “_Mousié_” to
say anything in his presence which he was not intended to understand;
nor was it long before he could read sufficiently well to amuse his
leisure with the worthless sentimental romances then, unhappily,
popular in Russia.

In other ways his education made rapid progress. He soon appreciated
the attractions of the French theatre; he learned to like the taste of
champagne; and cards and loto were substituted for the homely babshkys
of his childhood. Under the tutelage of M. Thomassin--as worthless and
unprincipled a Frenchman as ever professed and propagated the doctrines
of Voltaire--the Wertsches were growing up into frivolous, dissipated
young men of fashion, and open scoffers at what they styled a stupid
and antiquated superstition. Their mother, a thoroughly ignorant
woman, with a thin veneering of showy accomplishments, was a little
horrified when their contempt for things she had been accustomed to
revere was manifested in her presence; but she supposed that all must
be right which was taught them by a fashionable French “professeur.” At
all events, they only did like other people in the _beau monde_, and
its opinion was her idol.

Once only did Ivan see her really provoked. He often visited his kind
old friend Petrovitch, as indeed for every reason he was bound to do.
The easiest way of reaching or returning from the merchants’ quarter
was by crossing the river, in summer by a ferry-boat, in winter on
foot or in a sledge. Once, however, just when the ice was beginning to
break, and the passage was difficult and rather unsafe, Ivan stayed
with the Petrovitches for dinner, and came home in the evening in a
drosky by a longer route. The countess, before his return, had been a
little alarmed for his safety, but was much more annoyed when he made
his appearance and explained how his day had been spent.

“It is well enough to _visit_ people like the Petrovitches,” she
said. “But to _eat_ in their house! such a thing is never done in the
world--_never_! For Heaven’s sake, Ivan, do not let any one know of it.
You would be talked about.”

Adrian, who was present, took Ivan’s part. “After all, mother,” he
said, “in St. Petersburg his Imperial Majesty has been known to drink
tea in the house of a merchant.”

“His Imperial Majesty,” replied the countess with solemnity, “had
better take care of himself.”

“Which,” returned Adrian, “he is abundantly able to do.”

“Of course, Ivan,” Madame Wertsch resumed, “you can go to the
Petrovitches at proper times and in a proper way, when the old man
wishes to see you.”

“He will never see me again,” Ivan answered sadly; “he is quite blind
now.”

One incident of his first winter in Moscow shocked Ivan considerably,
though it made scarcely any impression upon those around him. Coming
out at midnight with the Wertsches from a sumptuous entertainment at
the palace of a friend, they found their little postilion lying dead in
the snow, close to the horses’ feet, with the reins still wound around
his stiffened arm. The child--a mujik of twelve years old, chosen for
his beauty--had fallen from his seat overcome by cold and fatigue, and
the coachman, himself half frozen, did not know what had happened until
too late to help him. Such accidents were of daily occurrence, Ivan
was told, during the frosty weather. No one seemed to think much about
it; he was only a mujik, one of the “black people,” in the eyes of the
fashionable world little better than beasts of burden. But Ivan was
haunted for weeks with the dead face of the pretty boy, to whom he had
often given a few kopecks to buy sweetmeats. Another face came before
him too with a reproachful, accusing look--the face that he had seen
bending compassionately over the senseless form of Stefen Alexitch.
Ivan often looked for that face in public places, in fashionable
assemblies, in church; but it is needless to add that he looked for it
in vain.

About two years after his arrival in Moscow, Ivan made an expedition
to Nicolofsky to visit his old friends. Although scarcely sixteen,
he already considered himself, and was considered by others, quite
grown up. The young Russian of that day ripened early into manhood:
fifteen was a usual age for entering the army, and education was then
considered complete. Still, though he thought himself old enough for
any adventure, Ivan might have postponed his journey for another year,
had not the proprietor of a neighbouring estate, who was going to spend
the summer at his country house, obligingly offered him a seat in his
carriage.

He had provided himself with gifts for all his friends, and ransacked
the “Silver Row” in the Great Bazaar for the prettiest ear-rings and
bracelets he could procure for Anna Popovna. The welcome he received
was everything that could be desired--affectionate, enthusiastic, and
admiring. There was but one exception. Michael Ivanovitch scowled upon
him with undisguised ill-humour. He would like to know what brought him
there, he was heard to mutter; adding that the less boyars and mujiks
had to say to one another the better for both. Otherwise, his visit was
a complete success. He returned to Moscow fancying himself desperately
in love with Anna Popovna, and the hero of one of his favourite
romances, in which princes sighed for shepherdesses and queens wedded
clowns. An attack of fever, which he had shortly afterwards, and which
kept him for some time confined to the house, gave him leisure to
indulge his dreams and reveries.

As he grew older, the works of Voltaire and Diderot began to replace
in his esteem the flimsy, unreal productions of the novelists. M.
Thomassin’s only genuine love was a love of pleasure, his only genuine
hatred a hatred of religion. Consequently he taught his pupils just
enough to make them sensualists and scoffers like himself. He bid fair
to succeed as completely with Ivan as he had done with Adrian and Leon
Wertsch; indeed Ivan would probably go farther than they, because his
nature was stronger and his character more energetic. What has no root
is easily displaced. The religion of Ivan’s early years was a mere
superstition, a matter of outward forms and observances; therefore,
when he ceased to attach importance to these, he lost everything. “From
him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he _seemeth to
have_.” There was no mental conflict, there were no keen and bitter
searchings of heart. From a dead faith he glided almost insensibly into
a dead scepticism, and by neither the faith nor the scepticism had the
profound slumber of his soul been at any time disturbed.

He continued to attend the numerous church services because others
did so, and because the exquisite music (in the Greek Church entirely
vocal) and the gorgeous ceremonial gratified his taste. He also
observed, at least as strictly as those around him, the long and severe
fasts of the Church; availing himself, however, of such evasions as
were sanctioned by custom: “name days,” for example, which happened to
fall in Lent were sure to be honoured with a double measure of feasting.

Meanwhile his emotional nature craved excitement and his mind needed
occupation. Genuine, earnest study under a competent teacher he
would have thoroughly enjoyed; but the Greek and Latin lessons with
which M. Thomassin supplemented his instructions in French were very
superficial and perfunctory. Fortunately he had another master for
Polish and German; and with these languages he took some pains, because
a knowledge of them was necessary in order to obtain a commission in
the army. But even in these his interest was slight; for at present he
found the attractions of the ballroom and the gaming-table far more
powerful than those of the library.

The narrow world of pleasure in which he lived thrilled but faintly to
the shock of those mighty impulses that were moving the great world
around him. Now and then he heard the strife of many tongues which
accused the Czar of blindness for having made peace with Napoleon at
all, and of weakness for keeping that peace in spite of numberless
provocations. In those days, any one who heard the talk of the _salons_
in Moscow and St. Petersburg might have thought it the easiest thing in
the world to measure swords once more with the conqueror of Austerlitz.
Ivan shared the sentiments of those around him, and accordingly he
was overjoyed when at last, in defiance of Napoleon, the ukase was
published which reopened the trade with England under the protection
of neutral flags, and foreign luxuries appeared once more upon the
table of the noble, while foreign gold glided quickly into the purse
of the merchant. He shared, too, the universal indignation at
Napoleon’s atrocious spoliation of the Duke of Oldenburg, the Czar’s
brother-in-law, perhaps the most flagrant of his many violations of the
Treaty of Tilsit. Ivan was breathing an atmosphere highly charged with
electricity, and full of the indications of an approaching storm; but
he knew not the signs of the times. Besides, how was it possible that
he, whom competent judges were calling the best dancer in Moscow, and
who was the acknowledged favourite of fortune at all games of hazard,
could disquiet himself about the designs of Napoleon and the prospect
of a war with France?



CHAPTER VII.

“ON THE EDGE OF THE STORM.”

  “Still the race of hero-spirits
    Pass the lamp from hand to hand;
  Age from age the words inherits--
    ‘Wife, and child, and fatherland!’”


Years came and went, changing the “little lord” of Nicolofsky into
the graceful, handsome young nobleman, the ornament of the ball-rooms
of Moscow. Ivan Ivanovitch--as he was usually called by his numerous
friends, such use of the father’s Christian name being accounted
the best style and the highest courtesy in Russian society--had now
completed his education. He spoke French, the French of the _salons_,
in perfection; he played the violin; he danced with exquisite grace; he
was an adept at cards and loto.

This last accomplishment was a dangerous one. Diderot’s famous
saying, “Russia is rotten before she is ripe,” had but too much truth
in its application to the higher classes. A superficial foreign
civilization too often covered without eradicating the barbarism from
which the nation was only emerging, and thus the vices of the one
state of society were added to those of the other. In the brilliant
circles where Ivan moved, no form of vice was rare, except perhaps
intemperance. The noble did not usually misuse his champagne as grossly
as the mujik did his vodka; but this was the only particular in which
he set his poorer brother a good example.

The most fashionable vice of the Russian nobility at this period was
the perilous excitement of the gaming-table. In this, as in other
things, the licentious court of Catherine II. had been to the whole
empire a very seed-plot of corruption. It is recorded that on one
occasion the Empress herself had been unable to obtain a glass of
water, so engrossed were pages, equerries, ladies-in-waiting, even
grooms and porters, with their cards and their dice. Things were
altered now. Alexander neither played himself, nor permitted any one to
play for money within the precincts of his palace; but when once evil
seed has been sown, who can eradicate the crop that springs from it?

Adrian Wertsch was now a tchinovik; that is to say, he had obtained
a place under government which gave him an official tchin, or rank,
corresponding to a particular grade in the army, the standard of
all honour under the military despotism of the Czars. Leon had a
commission, and had recently joined his regiment. Like every one else,
he was greatly excited by the prospect of the war with France; but,
like nearly every one, he thought the vast army Napoleon had been
collecting was intended to winter in Germany, and that the grand drama
for which all the world was looking with strained eyes and eager hearts
would not be played out until the following summer.

About Ivan’s future there was some perplexity, but of a kind which no
one was in a hurry to solve. His education had begun very late, and
his present life of elegant dissipation was very pleasant. Still, when
Count Rostopchine became Governor of Moscow, early in 1812, Ivan’s
friends thought it well to present him, acquainting the count with his
position as the penniless heir of a great though proscribed name. But
Rostopchine was a Russian of the old school, in whom the proverbial
“Tartar” was very near the surface. He surveyed Ivan critically, from
his perfumed hair to his silk stockings and jewelled shoe-buckles, and
muttered contemptuously, as he turned away, “Dandified French coxcomb!”
To Count Rostopchine the French, with all their works and ways, were
anathema.

Ivan’s heart was not broken by this repulse, though he took his revenge
for it in a clever lampoon, much applauded in the _salons_. He plunged
the more madly into every form of excitement and dissipation. For a
while fortune continued to smile upon him, and all things went well;
his heart was glad, his laugh light, and his step elastic.

But a bitter hour came at last. One night the debts scored against him
upon the gaming-table grew and grew, until the total became absolutely
alarming. Of course he was plied with the usual arguments, “Go on;
your fortune will change,--you will retrieve all;”--and, of course,
he yielded. The fascination of companionship was upon him, and the
yet more potent spell of champagne completed his infatuation. So far
as he was able to reflect at all, the very thoughts that ought to
have checked his madness only stimulated it. He could not bear that
his associates should taunt him with cowardice, but it was still more
intolerable that they should suspect him of poverty. The fear made him
desperate, and he went on wildly and recklessly, lavishly increasing
his stakes, lest any one should surmise the truth--that he was risking
more than he possessed. But at last that very fear arrested him when
on the brink of ruin. Seeing him so heavy a loser, his friends came
forward with offers of assistance, which they urged, nay, even pressed
upon him. But he rejected all. Not to these would he become a debtor;
for what hope could he entertain of repaying them? There was only _one_
in all the world to whom he could turn for real help in the hour of
need.

It was not until the next morning that he fully realized his position.
He awoke unrefreshed from a short feverish sleep, and drank the tea
his valet brought him, but could not eat Fortunes ten times larger
than the whole sum of his debts changed hands continually over the
card-tables of Moscow and St. Petersburg. But all things go by
comparison, and what would have been little indeed to the lord of
broad lands and toiling serfs, was much to the “merchant’s pensioner,”
as Ivan bitterly called himself. He had no alternative but to go to
Petrovitch, confess his folly, and throw himself upon the generosity of
his kind old friend. This, to a youth of his spirit and temper, was a
cruel humiliation. All his manliness, all his independence of character
revolted from the task; and it was equally abhorrent to his pride.
Both the good and the evil in him were at war with the necessities of
his position; but both had to give way. He dressed himself quickly,
left the Wertsch mansion without speaking to any one, hailed the first
drosky he saw, sprang in, and gave his directions,--choosing the longer
route to the merchant’s house, that he might avoid the ferry with its
possible delays. The driver, as he settled himself in his seat and
grasped more firmly the long ropes that served him as reins, leaned
over and asked him, “Gospodin,[13] have you heard the news?”

“Curse the news!” said Ivan petulantly. “Drive quickly, isvostchik,[14]
and I’ll double thy fare.”

Yet absorbed as he was in his sordid, selfish trouble, he could not
fail to see that some extraordinary change had passed over the city.
At the street corners and in the thoroughfares persons of all classes
were gathering in groups, talking and gesticulating. A few had letters
or printed papers in their hands; but those who could read were a small
minority, and by far the greater number were discussing what they had
heard from the lips of others. Now and then Ivan wondered languidly
what had happened; but his thoughts always slipped back to subjects
of more pressing interest. What should he say to Petrovitch? and what
would Petrovitch say to him?

It was a glorious morning at the end of June,

  “The very city’s self was filled
  With the breath and the beam of heaven.”

Fair shone the gilded cupolas of the Kremlin, brightly gleamed the
silver Moskva, and the gardens and terraces were blooming with a
thousand flowers. Never had the old city looked more lovely, with
the strange peculiar charm of its quaint barbaric magnificence toned
and softened by those sweet influences of sun and air that touch the
responsive earth like the benediction of Heaven. On that day Ivan
scarcely noticed its beauty; but in after years the memory often
returned to him,--like the last happy, untroubled look we have seen on
some beloved face, ere it is dimmed by those shadows of disease and
pain that prelude the darker shadow of the grave.

At length he reached the house of Petrovitch, dismissed his drosky,
and walked in. He was accustomed to enter the old man’s presence
unannounced, to be recognized by the sound of his footsteps, and
affectionately welcomed.

It was now almost four years since Petrovitch had become totally blind.
God’s hand had touched him gently, and the touch softened and ennobled
him. The interests of commercial life, the buying, selling, and getting
gain, which once occupied him so intensely, had faded from him now;
and if still he ruled his household with a strong hand, it was less
by fear and more by love. Feodor had learned to read on purpose to
while away the long hours for him, though there were not many books
in the Prussian language likely to interest him. For romances in the
French style, whether translated or imitated, he cared nothing at
all; history, which he would have greatly enjoyed, had still to be
naturalized in Russia; and, unhappily, the best Book of all was then
locked away from the Russian in a casket of which the key was well-nigh
lost--the old Slavonic tongue, more unintelligible to Petrovitch than
the English of Chaucer would be to us. But a friend of his, Pope
Yefim, a priest of much more than average intelligence and seriousness,
used often to visit him, and to tell him Scripture narratives, and
repeat for him prayers or passages from the Psalter. “I can no longer
raise my eyes to the holy pictures,” Petrovitch was wont to say, “so I
must learn to lift up my heart to God.”

To-day Ivan found him surrounded by several members of his family. His
eldest son stood before him; two or three others, sons or grandsons,
were at hand; and Feodor, now a fine lad of sixteen, had perched
himself as usual upon one of the arms of his chair.

“Father, your will is law,” Ivan Petrovitch was saying. “Still it is
rather hard upon me to be chained to desk and ledger because I am the
eldest son, while sons, nephews, and grandsons are doing their duty.”

“Thou too wilt be doing thine,” the old man returned. “What if it be a
harder one? Is it thy part, or mine, to choose?--But hush! are not the
footsteps that I hear those of my lord’s grandson?”

Ivan came forward, and the usual greetings were exchanged, though on
his side in a tone of embarrassment, which did not escape the quick ear
of Petrovitch.

“Prince Ivan,” he said, “you are in trouble. Do you wish to speak with
me alone?”

Petrovitch usually gave Ivan the title of prince, although, on account
of his father’s disgrace and his own equivocal position, the heir
of Pojarsky had forborne to assume it in general society--a modest
reticence which Petrovitch not only approved, but had himself actually
recommended.

“It is true, dädushka,” Ivan answered frankly; “I wish to speak with
you alone.”

At a sign from Petrovitch the others left the room, and without waiting
for Ivan to begin, the old man said, “I know what you feel. Speak
freely. What can I do for you?”

Ivan was greatly surprised at this address. Which of those who were
present last night, he asked himself, could possibly have told the
story of his folly, and how could it have found its way so quickly to
the ears of Petrovitch?

“I do not think you _can_ know what I feel,” he began humbly; “I am so
utterly ashamed of myself. You have so often warned me to be moderate
in play, and as often have I made the best of resolutions, and I meant
to keep them faithfully, but--”

He came to a sudden stop, astonished, even terrified by the change
that swept over the sightless but expressive face of Petrovitch.
Disappointment, sorrow, anger chased each other rapidly, like clouds
before a stormy wind; then all these passed away and were succeeded by
something too sadly like contempt. Ivan stood in silent embarrassment,
unable to proceed with his story.

But he had said enough. After a pause, Petrovitch spoke in a cold,
constrained voice, “So _that_ is your trouble, Prince Ivan? You have
lost money at play. How much?”

“Eight thousand seven hundred and fifty roubles,” said Ivan in the low
tones of penitence and shame.

“Silver or paper?”

“Paper,” said Ivan, rather more cheerfully. There was an enormous
difference in value between the two, although in neither case would the
sum have been a large one in the eyes of extravagant Russian nobles.

“Do me the favour to call Feodor; you will find him in the next room.”

Ivan obeyed; and Petrovitch, taking a key which hung round his neck,
gave it with a few directions to his grandson.

Something in the old merchant’s manner made Ivan stand before him in
silence, without venturing a word of explanation or of defence, until
Feodor’s return.

The boy gave his grandfather a roll of bank-notes, clean and crisp, and
immediately left the room.

In perfect silence the old man handed the notes to Ivan, who tried to
express his thanks; but Petrovitch stopped him. “The money,” he said
coldly, “is a matter of indifference to me. You are more than welcome
to it, Prince Ivan.” Never until to-day had he addressed him in such a
tone.

Ivan drew near, knelt down before his chair, and took his hand
affectionately. “Dear old friend,” he said, “I see that I have wounded
you. Forgive me, for my grandfather’s sake,--and for my own, for I love
you truly.”

The aged face quivered with suppressed emotion, yet Petrovitch drew his
hand away. “You cannot love me, Prince Ivan Pojarsky,” he said, “if you
love not the land of your fathers.”

“The land of my fathers!” repeated Ivan in surprise. “What can you
mean?”

“Stand up, Prince Ivan,” continued the old man, still speaking with
sternness; “the posture of a suppliant does not become you. Do you
think it is anything to me that you have lost a few thousand roubles at
play? Do you think that if you needed my whole fortune I would heave a
sigh or shed a tear as I gave it into your hands? But it _is_ a grief
to me, beyond sighs and tears, that trifles such as these should occupy
the heir of Pojarsky when the foot of the enemy is on the soil of holy
Russia.”

“_What?_” cried Ivan, springing to his feet in amazement.

“Can it be possible you have not heard?” asked Petrovitch, the heavy
cloud of displeasure beginning to clear from his brow. “At daybreak
this morning the tidings came. They have crossed the Niemen, those
barbarous hosts that own no God in heaven, no king on earth save that
monster from the abyss they call Napoleon. They come--in the stillness
and darkness I seem to hear their footsteps across plain, and forest,
and river. They come to trample down the soil of our fatherland, to
water it with blood, to waste our fields, to burn our villages with
fire, to make our wives widows, our children orphans; ay, and to do yet
darker deeds than these, deeds which I have no words to tell. The storm
has been gathering long; and now, at last, the thunder-cloud has burst
upon us! My country, O God, my country!”

“But our cause is just,” said Ivan. “Surely every Russian will fight to
the death.”

“This, indeed, will be a death-struggle,” Petrovitch resumed. “Do you
not understand? It is all the world against holy Russia--all the world,
except England and Spain: England, far away, safe within her God-given
rampart of crested foam; Spain already bleeding beneath the talons
of the vulture. Russia, Russia only, stands upright, and refuses, as
Pope Yefim expresses it, to bow the knee to the Baal, or rather to the
Moloch of France. Therefore, the conqueror has forced the conquered
to join his standard, and it is not only the legions of France who
are pouring across the Niemen, but Prussians, Austrians, Saxons,
Westphalians, all the men of Germany who are Napoleon’s subservient
though unwilling slaves; Poles, ever eager to trample on our pride and
profit by our misfortunes; ay, even Spaniards, dragged from their vines
and their olives to fight for the tyrant they detest.” He paused, then
went on again in a sadder tone and with even deeper feeling--“If in
this dark hour God had but been gracious to us, and given us a bearded
Czar!”

“A bearded Czar!” Ivan repeated in perplexed surprise.

“Yes. Do you not remember the words of the great Czar Peter? ‘If ever
again a bearded Czar shall sit upon the throne of Russia, all Europe
may tremble.’ He meant a true Muscovite Czar--stern, hard, and strong,
like Ivan the Terrible long ago, somewhat like Count Rostopchine now.
But instead of such a hero as the Czars of old--with the world in arms
against us, God in his inscrutable providence has seen fit to send us
Alexander Paulovitch.”

“But, dädushka, the people love him.”

“_Love him?_--with all their hearts. The men of Russia are not wood
or stone. They love him well enough to be true to him to the death,
if only he dares to be true to himself and to them. But that is too
much to hope. All things must do after their kind. Does the antelope
of the desert confront the tiger in his den, and tear from him his
blood-stained spoil? Do men take the fine gold out of the furnace to
forge it into their weapons of war? or the silk of China to spin into
the cable that holds the ship of war to her moorings? But, Prince Ivan,
I am talking wildly, perhaps idly and sinfully. Forget what I have
said. After all, Alexander Paulovitch is the Lord’s anointed.”

“And you know that, since last April, he has been in the field with his
army--where he ought to be.”

“Where he ought _not_ to be!” thundered Petrovitch angrily. “What we
ask from our Czar is not the cheap courage of the recruit, whose one
virtue is to stand and be shot at, but the far higher courage to think,
to decide, to act for fifty millions of men. ‘Thou shalt not go forth
with us to battle,’ said the men of old to their king, ‘that thou
quench not the light of Israel.’ God put the heart of man in the very
midst of his body, to send the life-giving blood to the strong hands,
which in their turn are meant to defend it from scath and harm.”

“True;--and it occurs to me,” said Ivan quietly, “that my place is with
the hands.”

The face of Petrovitch actually lighted up. “Thank God for that word!”
he said. “But I expected no less from Prince Ivan Ivanovitch Pojarsky.”

Ivan had entered the house of Petrovitch that day a reckless, frivolous
youth, capable indeed of nobler things, but absorbed in the pursuit of
pleasure and in the petty, selfish troubles it entailed upon him. He
left the presence of his aged friend with the heart, the purpose, the
thoughts of a man. He felt the ennobling glow of patriotic fervour. His
country was in jeopardy, and he was ready to give his life for it. He
thought, as he turned his steps homewards,--

“This is enough to make my brave ancestor, the great Prince Pojarsky,
arise from his grave to fight for holy Russia. From his grave? There
are living graves, far off in drear Siberia: will the dead arise out of
_these_, I wonder? Dear, unknown father--unknown, yet not forgotten--if
still you see the sun and breathe the air of this world, how would
you rejoice to come back and cover your stained name with glory! But
I scarcely dare to hope your life has lingered on through all these
weary years. If not, then mine are the only veins in which the blood
of Pojarsky is flowing. Oh that I could win our ancient honour back
again!”



CHAPTER VIII.

A NATION’S TRANSPORT.

  “Take thy banner, and beneath
  The battle-cloud’s encircling wreath,
  Guard it till our homes are free--
  Guard it, God will prosper thee!
  In the dark and stormy hour,
  In the breaking forth of power,
  In the rush of steeds and men,
  His right hand will guard thee then.”


About three weeks later all Moscow was in a frenzy of excitement. The
Czar was coming. Ten thousand bells, from those of the world-famous
“Ivan Veliki,” that looked down from its giddy height upon the domes
of the Kremlin, to that of the most obscure of her fifteen hundred
churches, were clamouring their sonorous welcome. Cannon were ready to
thunder a greeting yet more deafening, though far less musical; and
the nobles and clergy were preparing a grand procession to meet their
sovereign at the Smolensko gate. Meanwhile the people poured forth in a
dense, tumultuous crowd to watch for his approach. Long and patiently
did they wait; and the shades had fallen deep over the city, in which
that night there were but few sleepers, when at last continued shouts
and “houras” announced his appearance. Happy was he who could catch,
through the darkness, even a glimpse of the unpretending open carriage,
drawn by four unbroken horses from the steppes of Tartary, in which the
Czar was wont to travel.

It had been a bitter sacrifice to Alexander to forsake his armies, now
face to face with the enemy, and retrace his steps to the centre of his
dominions. But his generals had said to him, “Sire, your presence here
paralyzes the army; it takes fifty thousand men to guard you;” and he
was forced to acknowledge the justice of their remonstrances: a chance
bullet--perhaps a bullet which was _not_ a chance one; for Napoleon
was no chivalrous antagonist--might at any moment leave Russia a prey
to untold confusion.[15] On the other hand, a new army was urgently
needed, and none but the sovereign could raise it; men’s hearts
everywhere were failing them for fear, and none but the sovereign could
inspire them with hope and confidence. So “the great heart” returned
“to the midst of the great body.”[16] For the present.

On the morning after the arrival of the Czar in Moscow, Ivan was
walking in a fashionable street called the Arbatskaya, not far from the
Kremlin. Adrian Wertsch and two or three other young noblemen were with
him. Like all the crowd amongst which they were moving, they had donned
their richest and gayest dresses. Every one wore a festive air, and
seemed to be making holiday in honour of the presence of the sovereign.

“Come, Adrian Nicoläitch,” said young Kanikoff, the very person to whom
Ivan had lost so many of Petrovitch’s hard-earned roubles--“come, tell
us how much of the show _you_ saw last night.”

“As much as you did,” was the laughing answer; “or as our friend here,
Ivan Ivanovitch.”

“Oh, as for me,” said Ivan, “_I_ am born under an unlucky star. I am
destined never to see his Imperial Majesty. During one of his visits
to the city I was ill; during two I was absent; and last night, all I
could contrive to see was the head of one of his horses.”

“Better luck another time. Stay, I really think we are going to have it
now. Hark! listen to those shouts. What a throng there is though--all
the ‘black people’ in Moscow pressing about us!--Come, come, good
people; if it is the Czar, still you need not crowd us in this way.
There is room enough in the world for all. Stand back, I say!--Ivan,
take care of your purse!”

“No need,” laughed Ivan; “there is nothing in it.”

“Hush! he is coming. Off with hats and caps.--Yakovlef, of what are you
thinking? Do not kneel, man; he has strictly forbidden it.”

“Great St. Michael!” exclaimed Wertsch in another moment, “what
a disappointment, and what fools we have all been making of
ourselves!--Be quiet there, good people, and save your throats until
you have something to shout for. That is not his Imperial Majesty; it
is only one of his aides-de-camp, with some other person belonging to
the suite.”

“Eh bien!” said Kanikoff. “It is no wonder the servant was taken
for the master. He is handsome enough for that.” And he gazed
in undisguised admiration at the splendid figure of the young
aide-de-camp, with his plumed cap in his hand, and a galaxy of jewelled
orders glittering on his breast, as he bowed gracefully to right and
left in acknowledgment of the salutations of the crowd.

“That is Prince Ouvarov,” said Yakovlef. “You seem to admire him.”

“Who could help it?”

“Not the ladies of St. Petersburg, at all events. It is said he breaks
a score of hearts every season. Once the Czar himself read him a
lecture; and I am told he answered, with the utmost _sang-froid_, ‘How
can I help it, your Imperial Majesty? The ladies are such fools about
me.’ But would you believe it?--in war he is the Archangel Michael
himself. He led the hussars at Austerlitz; and at Erfurt Napoleon
asked, ‘Which is the brave general who punished my infantry so
sorely?’ This young gallant, as beautiful as a girl, and as daintily
curled and perfumed, stepped forward and said quietly, ‘Je, sire.’ ‘You
may not speak very good French, but you are a very brave officer,’ said
Napoleon, taking his hand kindly.”

“Have a care, Yakovlef. If the people hear us talking of Napoleon, ten
to one they will tear us to pieces.”

“Not they, while the Czar is here.--Ivan Ivanovitch, what ails you? You
seem lost in a dream. Wake up, my friend.”

Ivan started.

“True enough,” he said; “I feel in a dream. I am perplexed, haunted, by
the face of that man.”

“Of Ouvarov?”

“No; of the other who rode beside him. That tall, gaunt,
foreign-looking man. I have seen him before; I am sure of it. But
where? when?”

“I should think,” said Kanikoff, “that you would care very little to
see him again. He must ride out with Ouvarov on purpose to illustrate
Beauty and the Beast.”

“Ivan would like well enough to see him if he were ill,” Yakovlef
interposed. “That is the Czar’s physician--Dr. Wylie, a Scotchman, very
clever, but very ready with his lancet, they say. He has been accused
of cutting off a man’s head to cure him of a headache.”

“The head of the man who allowed him to do it could have been little
loss to its owner,” laughed Ivan. Then he repeated thoughtfully, “His
lancet! I am sure I have seen him with a lancet. Of what can I be
thinking?”

He was interrupted by Feodor, the grandson of Petrovitch, who pushed
his way through the crowd to the group of young nobles. The handsome,
dark-eyed lad, in his blue caftan and crimson sash, looked to no
disadvantage amongst them. They all knew him, and greeted him with
kindness, if also with a little condescension.

“I am so glad I have found you, Prince Ivan,” said the boy
breathlessly. “My grandfather thought you would like to see the
benediction of the Czar with the holy picture. His friend, Pope Yefim,
is to take part in the ceremony, and he says he can secure you a good
place.”

Ivan gladly accepted the offer; and in the short conversation that
followed, the merchant’s son was able to contribute materially to the
information of his social superiors.

“Pope Yefim has seen a copy of the letter which the Patriarch wrote
to the Czar,” he said. “He was not able to come himself--for you
know, gentlemen, he is nearly a hundred years old, much older than my
grandfather--but he writes that it grieves him to the heart he cannot
see the face of his sovereign--that face which is to him ‘as the face
of Christ.’”

Neither speaker nor hearers were startled by the expression which to us
seems to border on the profane. But the profanity was unintentional,
and the passionate loyalty utterly sincere.

Feodor went on--“He has sent him the sacred picture of St. Sergius,
from the Troitza monastery. You know, gentlemen, that is the picture
which the Czar Alexis and the great Czar Peter carried into battle, and
it always gave them the victory. Though, my grandfather says, it is not
the holy picture that gives the victory, or even the holy saint, but
God himself.”

“Thy grandfather seems to be a wise man,” said Yakovlef. “But I wonder
what the Czar himself thinks of the matter. People used to call him
very enlightened, quite a philosopher, a disciple at heart of Voltaire
and Diderot. I warrant me they are right, and he believes little
enough.”

The last remark was intended for the nobles, but it reached the ear of
Feodor, who, to every one’s surprise, both understood and answered it.

“The Czar,” he said reverently, “must believe very much in God, for he
cares very much about the poor, whom God has made.”

“God give him the victory over his enemies!” said Kanikoff; and the
little group responded with a hearty “Amen!”--for, “beneath all the
foam and sputter” of their light and careless talk, it was true that
“the heart’s depths boiled in earnest.”

Such a benediction as the Czar was about to receive is often bestowed,
in the Greek Church, even upon private persons who have in view some
important enterprise, or wish to offer some particular supplication or
thanksgiving. It is called a Molében; and it would be a beautiful and
touching ceremony, but for the baneful influence of that superstition
which too often leads its votaries to worship and serve the creature
more than the Creator. Usually, most of the prayers are addressed to
the guardian angel, or to the saint with whose picture the votary is
blessed--the picture being then given to him as a kind of talisman.

The benediction was to take place on the 27th of July, and early in
the morning Ivan entered the Church of the Assumption, the sacred spot
where the holy anointing oil had been poured upon the head of the
Czar. Pope Yefim had found for him a quiet niche, from whence he could
witness the whole of the ceremony. He had room to stand or kneel: in
Russian churches the worshippers never sit, however protracted the
services may be. From his place of waiting he heard the tumult, the
shouts and cheering, which welcomed the Czar as he approached. He knew
that now he was ascending the “Red” or “Beautiful” Staircase, by which,
upon state occasions, the Czars were wont to enter the cathedral; but
he could not know that he was “followed by an immense crowd, who wept,
and blessed him, and swore to defend his empire with their lives.”[17]
He knew that now this Czar would take his stand, as other Czars had
done, upon the summit of the staircase, to allow the people beneath
“to see the light of his eyes;” but he could not know as yet how
profoundly the mighty heart of that people was moved, “as the trees of
the wood are shaken with the wind.”

Clear and sweet as the song of angels rose the ringing treble of the
boyish choristers, who welcomed the Czar as he entered--“Blessed is he
that cometh in the name of the Lord!” The violet robes of the bishop
and the assistant priests--the flash of innumerable jewels upon mitre,
pall, and crozier--the faint perfume of incense--the sparkling drops of
holy water flung from vessels worth the ransom of a king,--all these
held the senses of Ivan, and wholly filled for a time his imaginative
and impressible heart.

Meanwhile, the man who was the centre of all this pomp, and whose
manhood for Russia in that solemn hour was more than worth it all,
stood reverently in his place while the officiating bishop sprinkled
him with holy water, or touched his forehead, his lips, his breast with
the sacred picture. As the eyes of Ivan rested on that stately figure,
peerless in its grace and majesty, a kind of awe stole over him. All
the old superstitious reverence of the Russian for the Czar, who is
“God upon earth,” came upon him. It seemed almost an irreverence to
raise his eyes to the face of the monarch; he could scarcely dare to do
it.

But a “Gospodin Pomilvi” of exquisite sweetness from the choir drew
away his thoughts for a moment, and involuntarily he glanced towards
the spot whence the sound proceeded. Then, once again he looked where
all else were looking; and suddenly a strange thing happened to him. As
in a dream, he saw--instead of the gorgeous, dimly-lighted church, the
gleaming vestments, the drooping banners--a green bank beside a river,
a group of peasants, a cold and rigid form, a noble, compassionate face
bending over it. He heard a voice that said, in tones of courageous
hope, “My children, this is not death. We will save him yet.” For he
knew that his boyar and the Czar Alexander Paulovitch were the same.
Only, it seemed to him that now it was holy Russia that was lying numb
and prostrate, and that the Czar had pledged himself to save. He would
do it. From that moment Ivan never doubted it.

Besides the great ceremony of which the world was talking,[18] another,
known to one only, took place in the church that day. Ivan drew out the
piece of gold his boyar’s hand had given him, and which, ever since,
had hung round his neck. He kissed it, and made a solemn vow upon it,
“Faithfully to serve my Czar; to live for him all my days; and, if God
will, to die for him.”

Yet once more his eyes sought the face of his sovereign, and never
wandered from it until the service was concluded. But little could he
guess what was passing in the soul of which that expressive countenance
was sometimes the too faithful index.

Alexander’s own hand has sketched for us in a few slight touches the
conflicts of that period. Not then, nor ever, so far as we know, did
the thought of St. Sergius, or of any other human mediator, interpose
itself between his soul and the Divine Presence. But for some time past
he had been wrestling hard in secret with questions which go down to
the very roots of a man’s being. Was there a God in heaven whose ear
could be reached by that cry from human lips, “Gospodin Pomilvi”? And,
if so, was he the “invented God,” the “God afar off” of the deist and
the philosopher; or the God of the Bible, the Father of our Lord Jesus
Christ? Already these questions were answered for him, almost with
assurance; but there still remained another. Would this God hear and
help a man who was kneeling before him on behalf of fifty millions of
other men whose destinies were committed to his keeping? Would he deign
to touch him with his hand, to strengthen him with his strength? In
those days the soul of Alexander was feeling after God, if haply he
might find him.

The service over, Ivan repaired to the Hall of Nobles, as one whose
rank entitled him to find entrance there. He had to content himself
with an obscure place in the crowded assembly, where he could not
see the Czar, although he could hear his voice. In a noble address,
Alexander laid before his subjects the full extent of the public
danger. He concealed nothing; the strength of the invaders, the
position of the army, its perils, its resources, its needs, all were
revealed with a large-minded candour which would have honoured the
constitutional monarch of a free people. In conclusion, he said that
he “regarded the zeal of the nobility as the firmest support of the
throne. In all times and on all occasions it has proved the faithful
defender of the integrity and glory of Russia.” Here his voice
thrilled, faltered with emotion, and he paused amidst a universal
cry that seemed to shake the massive roof and walls of the grand old
hall--“Ask what you please, sire; we offer you everything.”

One of the nobles proposed the gift of a serf in every twenty-five; but
a chorus of eager voices interrupted, “It is not half enough!” Finally,
one serf in every ten, ready armed and equipped, and provided for three
months, was unanimously voted for the service of the Czar.[19]

While all this went on, Ivan sat in his place, silent and sad at heart.
_He_ had nothing to give,--nothing but his life; yet that, perhaps,
might count for something hereafter.

In the meantime, a scene equally significant was taking place in the
adjacent Hall of Merchants. Old Petrovitch repaired thither with the
rest, leaning on the arm of his youthful guide Feodor, his eldest son,
who ought to have accompanied him, being absent at the time. “I cannot
see the face of the Lord’s anointed,” he said, “but I can hear his
voice.” This assembly, like the other, was densely crowded. Feodor
contrived to find standing room upon the edge of a seat; and from this
vantage-ground he was able to look over the heads of the throng of
grave, bearded merchants. “Grandfather,” he whispered, “the Czar is not
here; only the Governor.”

“God save his Excellency Count Rostopchine! Hearts of steel, such as
his, are sorely needed now,” the old man responded.

“But we can see _him_ any day we like. It is the Czar we want to see,”
grumbled Feodor.

“Patience, boy; he is coming,” said one of the merchants near them.
“And, while we wait for him, it is _his_ words the count is going to
give us, not his own.”

This was true. Amidst a hush of eager expectation, the Governor rose
and read aloud the address of the Czar “to our ancient city and
metropolis of Moscow.” It contained the same explanations and appeals
which at that moment in another place were falling from his own lips;
and concluded with an earnest exhortation to prepare for “that defence
which must now shield the babe at the mother’s breast, and guard from
sacrilege the tombs of our fathers. The very existence of our name in
the map of nations is menaced. The enemy denounces ‘Destruction to
Russia.’ The security of our holy Church, the safety of the throne
of the Czars, the independence of our ancient Muscovite Empire, all
call aloud that the object of this appeal may be received by our loyal
subjects as a sacred decree. May the filial ardour spread itself from
Moscow to the extremities of our dominions; and a force will then
assemble around the monarch that may defy the thousand legions of our
treacherous invader. The ills which he has prepared for us will then
fall upon his own head, and Europe, delivered from slavery, may then
celebrate the name of--”

“Alexander!” The words sprang from the lips of Feodor Petrovitch, the
youngest there, who spoke aloud the thought that thrilled in every
heart, and knew not that he spoke until he caught the reproving looks
of some of those around him. In the meantime Count Rostopchine calmly
completed the sentence as it had been written--“Europe, delivered from
slavery, may then celebrate the name of RUSSIA.”

Scarcely had he concluded, when the Czar himself stood amongst
them, and with a few eloquent words wound up to its highest pitch
the enthusiasm of the audience. Amidst the tears and acclamations
which followed, the venerable chief of the merchants[20] stood
up in his place and subscribed his name for the gift of fifty
thousand roubles--two-thirds of his fortune. Others gave in similar
proportion; and Petrovitch was surpassed by none in self-sacrificing
liberality. Feodor, under his directions, wrote his name upon
the list of subscribers. When he had done so, he turned to his
grandfather--“Dädushka, I think you must give the Czar something more
even yet.”

“Even sons and grandsons?” said the old man, with a smile that had in
it a little sadness and a great deal of resignation; “well, I shall not
refuse.”

“_Even me?_” said Feodor, nestling close to him and putting his arm
caressingly about his neck. But Petrovitch did not answer.

“The people were willing,” even beyond their power, so that three days
afterwards the Czar published a ukase, not to ask for gifts, but to
limit their amount. “The nobles literally gave him Russia,” wrote the
Sardinian ambassador to his sovereign. “They melted into tears; in
short, sire, there never was anything like it. The merchants have given
him ten million roubles, and lent him fifty or sixty million.”

But the mass of the people--peasants, mujiks, serfs, who tilled the
soil--what part had they in this splendid outburst of loyal and
patriotic enthusiasm? Napoleon expected that these “oppressed and
degraded slaves” would hail him as a deliverer--would rise everywhere
in revolt, and massacre their tyrants. Very different was the fact.
When the time came for the serfs voted by the nobles to be levied from
their estates, and when the vast crown lands had also to contribute
their proportion of recruits, there was weeping and wailing in the
izbas of every village from the Neva to the steppes of Tartary. But
it was not, as in other days, the conscript who mourned his hard lot,
and his mother, his sister, his betrothed who made sore lamentation
over a separation probably life-long. It was the one _not_ chosen who
mingled his tears with those of his friends and parents, because he
might not go and shed his blood for the Czar and holy Russia. Glad
was the young recruit as he donned his simple uniform--a gray caftan,
with loose trousers and a crimson sash; and proudly did he wear on the
front of his gray cap the imperial badge, “a brazen cross surmounting
a crown over the letter _A_.” First and highest the cross, symbol of
the Christian faith; beneath that, the imperial crown of Russia; again
beneath that--Alexander.

But although putting himself, as he was wont to do, in the lowest
place, and when possible out of sight altogether, the strong personal
love with which Alexander had inspired his subjects counted for more,
in that hour of a nation’s conflict and agony, than the traditional
religious veneration of the Russian for his country and his Czar. Well
was it for Russia, and for Europe also, that the Czar God had given
her was Alexander Paulovitch. It was not only that he had been, since
the beginning of his reign, “perfectly just as emperor, singularly
generous as man;”[21] not only that he was richly endowed with all
those brilliant and fascinating qualities which take the eye and win
the suffrage of the multitude. The secret of his influence lay deeper.
God had given him a gift more precious still. He had touched his heart
with “the enthusiasm of humanity.” This autocrat of fifty millions
“loved his brother whom he had seen,” even when as yet he knew not the
divine Father “whom he had not seen.” The hand that toiled so hard to
bring back the perishing mujik from his death-like swoon was well used
to deeds of beneficence. Of these a hundred stories might be told: at
that time they _were_ told, not only in the salons of St. Petersburg,
but beside the stove in the izbas of many a country village. Everywhere
the mujiks said, “Our lord the Czar loves us.” And everywhere, as long
as the world lasts, love will win love.



CHAPTER IX.

CLEMENCE.

  “Vive, vive le Roi!
  A bas la République!”--_Vendéan War-Song._


It is the fair and pleasant land of France--a land of corn-fields and
orchards and sunny garden-plots, where quiet villages nestle in shady
nooks, and old châteaux stand proudly amidst their sheltering woods.
You feel everywhere that this land has been for many a century tilled
and cared for by the hand of man; that generation after generation
sleeps in peace beneath the shadow of its gray old churches. Long ages
of toil and civilization have left their impress here, and the present
is the heir of a glorious and venerable past.

Yet, perhaps no country has ever suffered more. War after war has
swept over it; cruel oppression made the Revolution a terrible
necessity; and, again, the excesses of the Revolution made men forget
the crimes of the despotism that engendered it. And in the days of
which we write there brooded over all the portentous shadow of another
despotism--almost crushing enough to recall the worst days of Louis,
falsely called the Magnificent, and of his thrice-accursed successor.

Still, even in those evil times many a secluded nook seemed to be
hidden in the hollow of His hand, so quietly did it slumber throughout
all--escaping not indeed occasional suffering, but anything like
general ruin.

One such nook--a little pastoral village not a hundred miles from
Paris--had in its immediate neighbourhood a spot yet more secluded,
where a noble family of the “old _régime_” who otherwise might have
wandered homeless exiles from their native land, found a welcome
refuge. The simple four-roomed cottage, with the vine trained over its
tiny porch, would have been an unpretending dwelling for the village
smith or carpenter. Yet few could have looked on it attentively, even
from the outside, and none could have entered it, without feeling sure
that its inmates inherited the traditions of centuries of refinement
and cultivation.

The morning sun of one of the earliest days of 1812 was streaming
into the little porch. The weather was mild and beautiful--unusually
so for the season. One person was enjoying it thoroughly--a lad of
about seventeen, who reclined in the porch, intent upon a book, while
the sunshine streamed brightly over him, and the breeze gently lifted
his soft brown hair. The expression of his face was rather sweet than
strong--his forehead was good, his eyes large and dark, his mouth
well-formed and sensitive, but lacking as yet the look of resolution
that might come with riper manhood.

So absorbed was he in his book that he did not hear an approaching
footstep; but then it was a very light one. The young girl who came
out from the parlour to join her brother was his senior by a year, and
looked even more. She was tall, but her slight figure was well formed
and graceful. Her eyes were dark, like her brother’s; and her hair a
glossy brown, very fine and soft. It did not wave or float, but was
neatly coiled about a head which might have served a sculptor for his
model. There was no weakness in the delicate lines of her face, though
there was much tenderness. Her complexion was pale; but there was in
her cheek a hint of possible colour, which came and went with every
passing emotion. No one thought of calling Clémence de Talmont pretty,
but in the eyes of the few who loved her she was beautiful as the
dream of a poet.

“Henri,” she said, in a gentle but decided voice--“Henri.”

He looked up slowly, and said with a reluctant air, “Surely it is not
time for breakfast.”

“Mother has had her coffee, and yours is ready whenever you wish for
it. It is not _that_--”

“I had rather wait,” said Henri, ignoring her last words. “I want to
see the end of Pizarro’s expedition;” and he turned over a page of his
book.

“What are you reading?” asked Clémence, suppressing something like a
sigh.

“Les Incas de Marmontel--a beautiful book,” he added, rousing himself.
“Those old heathen monarchs, who lived for their people, tried to make
others happy, placed their glory in being loved, not feared, _ought_ to
have had a better fate.”

“I think _you_ might find a better book,” returned his sister, with a
slight tinge of asperity. “Marmontel was a friend of the Revolution--a
philosopher, a deist.”

“Ah, sister mine, you would rather see me reading the Confessions of
St. Augustine,” said Henri with a good-humoured laugh. “But there is a
time for all things; and I cannot think ill of books that make me love
God, and his beautiful world, and the creatures he has made.”

“True, brother,” said Clémence earnestly and with a rising colour;
“only take care that the God you love is the God of the Bible and the
Church, not the God of the philosophers and the _savants_. But”--after
a pause, and with a change of tone--“but, Henri, will you not run down
to the village before our mother leaves her room, and see whether there
is any placard on the Mairie?”

Henri closed his book and stood up, the anxiety in his sister’s face
reflecting itself, though faintly, upon his. “Why such haste?” he
asked.

“Babette told me this morning that she hears there is a new ‘senatus
consultus.’”

Henri’s thoughts turned rapidly from the mild sway of the Incas, of
which he had been dreaming, to the iron despotism of Napoleon, for
him no dream, but a stern and terrible reality. “If there were twenty
conscriptions,” he muttered hastily, “you know I am under age.”

“I do _not_ know it,” Clémence answered. “The curé says he fears all
are liable who will complete their eighteenth year in 1812. That is why
I want you to go and see whether the placard is there, before we alarm
our mother. But take your coffee first, brother. I will bring it to
you, if you like.”

She brought him a cup of fragrant café-au-lait, and a fresh roll,
prepared that morning by her own hands. He had just begun to eat and
drink when a voice from an adjoining room--like her own, gentle and
musical, but decided--called, “Clémence.”

“Don’t delay about the Mairie,” she said as she hastened in. “I will
tell our mother you are going for a walk.”

Grave, sweet, and dignified was the lady who stood at the table in the
little parlour. Her face was worn and pale; the hair that appeared
beneath her snowy cap was slightly silvered; and in her demeanour
something of antique stateliness combined with the peculiar and
inimitable grace of the old _régime_.

A dress of purple brocade, rich and stiff, lay on the table before her.
“Come here, Clémence,” she said; “I want to make this dress fit you.”

But Clémence shrank back. “Oh no, no, mother!” she said, with an air of
pain.

“But yes,” returned Madame de Talmont, in a quiet, peremptory voice.
“Not a word, my daughter; it is yours.” And seating herself, she took
up a pair of scissors, and began to rip off some antiquated trimming
from the sleeve.

Clémence felt almost as if a living thing she loved was being hurt.
Tears quivered in her eyes, and the colour rose to her cheek as she
laid her hand on her mother’s arm. “Mother, listen to me,” she pleaded.
“Do not touch that gown. It would never suit _me_. Is it well, think
you, that I should go to mass on Sundays looking like a princess, while
the few who know of our existence know also that we have scarcely bread
to eat from day to day? Is it suitable? And besides, dear mother,” she
continued timidly, “you know I do not love gay clothing. I do not think
it becomes a girl who, however unworthily, still desires and endeavours
to lead a religious life.”

“Be as religious as you please, my dear daughter,” said Madame de
Talmont, with a slight smile, “but be dutiful also, and believe that I
know how Mademoiselle de Talmont ought to appear at mass much better
than she does herself.”

“Mother, that is not all,” Clémence resumed. “I had rather keep that
gown of yours all my life as it is now. It is part of my childhood;
and, mother dear,” she continued sadly, “there is so little of our
childhood left to Henri and me. One of the earliest things I can
remember is your showing that dress to me and telling me how my father
brought it home to you the first time he went to Paris after his
marriage, and how you wore it when you stood at the window of our old
château in the Bocage, and watched him as he rode out with his men to
join the Royalists.”

“The last time I ever saw him--until I stood beside his death-bed. Ah,
my child! that war in La Vendée has broken many a woman’s heart.”

“Still, mother, it was a _just_ war. My father did well to die for his
King.”

“That is understood. My children and I have a consolation denied to
those whose dear ones perish every day in the frightful wars of this
Corsican usurper.--But do not trouble thy heart about the old gown,
Clémence. Silk and brocade and such things fade and perish and are
lost; but thy father’s last look as he rode away--_that_ remains,
_that_ is mine for ever. Does not the Bible say that ‘the things which
are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal’?”

“Yes; but--is _that_ what it means, mother?”

“That may not be all it means, but it may mean that too.”

Clémence yielded. She was accustomed to give way to her mother; and
indeed it is not usually the strong in heart who dispute pertinaciously
about trifles,--like good soldiers, they reserve their fire until the
right moment. A consultation followed; and certain mysteries of cutting
and placing, of letting out and taking in, were decided upon and
arranged. While they were discussing the pattern of the sleeves, Madame
de Talmont paused to ask, in a kind of parenthesis, “What has become of
Henri? I have not seen him this morning.”

“He has gone for a walk.”

No more was said until the ladies had entered upon the mechanical part
of their task, and deft, skilful fingers were busy with needles and
thread. Then Madame de Talmont resumed, “Is it a fancy of mine, or is
it true, that Henri becomes every day more like our cousin Louis?”

“That, of course, I cannot tell,” Clémence replied, smiling, “since, as
you are aware, mother, I have never seen Cousin Louis; though I find it
hard to believe that. From my earliest childhood I have thought of him
and pictured him, until he has become a kind of friend to me--like the
saints, or the holy recluses of Port-Royal.”

“He was no saint, my daughter,” returned Madame de Talmont rather
bitterly. “And an evil friend he proved himself to thy dear father.”

“Yet, mother, he must have been one of the most lovable of men.”

“He was fascinating, I do not deny. Besides, he was the head of our
house--or, at least, he became so on the death of his father. And thy
father could never forget that his own orphaned childhood and youth
had been protected by the parents of Louis, and surrounded with an
atmosphere of love and tenderness. Often has he talked to me of his
happy boyhood at Vernier, where he and his cousin Louis were like
brothers, and Victoire was the cherished sister of both.”

“Cousin Victoire! Ah, mother, I wish you would tell me more about
her. I have always felt such a romantic interest in this beloved and
beautiful sister of Cousin Louis, and yet, somehow, I know very little
about her.”

“There is little to know, child,” said the mother, with perhaps a shade
of embarrassment.

“One thing perplexes me,” Clémence resumed thoughtfully. “I remember to
have heard you say that for generations the first daughter of our house
has been always called Victoire. Now, _I_ am not Victoire. Nor do I
bear your name, mother, nor that of my father’s mother, Léonie.”

“Child, ere thou wert born, the name Victoire had become a sound of
woe to thy father’s ear. Once, perhaps, it may have been too sweet;--I
cannot tell. Brought up together as they were, and with the grateful,
reverential love he bore to all the De Talmonts of Vernier, it would
have been but natural if--Still, when all things changed--”

“Mother, how was it that they changed so sadly? What could Cousin
Victoire have done to grieve my father? As for Cousin Louis, I know
that he became a Jacobin, a _bonnet rouge_.”

“Too true. Louis de Talmont--the child of a family of unstained honour
and unshaken loyalty, the nephew of the gallant prince who died so
nobly on the scaffold for his King[22]--betrayed every sacred memory
of the past, every holy hope for the future. I marvel that the dust of
his ancestors did not rise from the battle-fields of their country to
curse the wretch who bore part in the murder of his King.” A red glow
suffused the pale cheek of Madame de Talmont as she spoke, showing
how hotly the fire of passion burned beneath its covering of proud
and dignified self-control. With this lady of the old _régime_ the
affections of the heart were strong, but the traditions and prejudices
of a class were stronger yet.

“But Victoire?” Clémence ventured after a pause.

“Ah, Victoire! Poor child! she was more sinned against than sinning.
But her life was wrecked; and that sin lies at the door of Louis de
Talmont. In those early days of the Revolution many foreigners came to
Paris. With one of these, who was young, brilliant, wealthy, and noble,
Louis formed, after his fashion, a violent friendship. M. le Prince,
as we used to call him, had a fine figure, a handsome face, and the
most splendid diamonds I have ever seen. But _there_ was an end of his
perfections; and great as they may have been, they could scarcely atone
for a head and heart as empty as air. Being a stranger, with nothing
to lose, and no knowledge of our past to restrain him, he went farther
than even his misguided teachers. There was no excess of the mob,
in those evil days, in which he did not bear a part. In the Jacobin
halls his voice was the loudest, his counsel the most violent; and
ever on his lips was that misused, delusive cry, ‘Liberty, Equality,
Fraternity.’ It was to this man that Louis de Talmont must needs give
the hand of his sister, the cherished daughter of his house.”

“Poor Victoire! How terrible for her! How miserable she must have
been! And this foreign prince--did he perish on the scaffold, like our
Cousin Louis?”

“No; he escaped that fate. When the storm he and his friends had evoked
passed beyond their control, and the Revolution began to devour its own
children, he found safety in flight.”

“And Victoire?”

“His wife went with him. I believe he took her to his own country. It
is but justice to say that he seemed to love her well. But her place
here knew her no more; she has been dead ever since to all who held
her dear. Her name has passed into eternal silence. And when God gave
you to us, your father said to me, ‘M’amie, for many years now the
world has been talking of nothing but peace and love and the universal
brotherhood of man; but because in the brotherhood of man men have
forgotten the Fatherhood of God, their peace is ending in war, and
their love in hatred such as earth has seldom seen. By the time this
babe is a woman grown, perhaps once again the world will have tired
of war and _victory_’ (only in this way did he utter the name), ‘and
may be glad to be reminded of the existence of such things as clemency
and forgiveness; so I propose that we call the daughter of our house
Clémence.’ Accordingly, Clémence you are.”

“It is quite right, mother. I like my name. Clemency should always
follow victory.--Ah! there is Henri. His step is tired and slow.”

Henri came in, and in the old ceremonious way kissed his mother’s
hand and asked after her health. But the look that passed between
them showed that although Madame de Talmont loved both her children
intensely, her son was the very joy of her existence; while on his
part, the love of his mother was the strongest passion that had yet
found entrance into his young heart. His face was pale and anxious;
indeed it wore almost an expression of terror.

“What is the matter?” his mother asked presently.

“Nothing particular,--nothing much,” said Henri.

“Whatever it is, speak, my son,--and at once,” said Madame de Talmont
imperatively.

“There is a placard on the Mairie announcing that the drawing for the
conscription is to take place next Thursday. It is as the curé told us:
all are liable who will be eighteen in the course of the year.”

Both his hearers grew pale, and the work fell from their hands. After a
short pause his mother said, “It is plain you will have to attend. God
grant you may draw a good number. But, at all events--” She remained
silent for some moments, then she added, in a voice which struggled
hard to be calm, “Bring me my desk, Clémence; we must be prepared for
the worst.”

Clémence obeyed mechanically, while Henri stood silent and listless,
watching her movements.

“Henri,” resumed Madame de Talmont, “I am going to write to our good
friend Grandpierre. _Should_ the worst happen, you must escape, and go
to him through the forest. He will shelter you.”

“But, mother, mother”--the lad’s colour came and went, and a quiver ran
through his frame--“the risk is terrible.”

“To _him_? He will venture it, for the House of Talmont, for his King,
and for his God.”

“To us all. Do you know how they deal with the _refractory_, as they
call those who try to evade the conscription, and with their families?”

Madame de Talmont raised her thin hand with a peremptory gesture, “Not
another word, Henri. It concerns not thee or us to measure the danger;
the duty is all with which we have to do. I can bear to think of thee
pining on bread and water, with a bullet chained to thy foot, and thy
head shaved like a convict’s; I could _not_ bear to know thee in the
camp of the Corsican tyrant, fighting to fasten his iron yoke upon the
necks of free men. How could I look upon thy father’s face in heaven,
if I had reared and nourished his son for _this_?”

“But oh, mother, it is _you_ I think of--you and Clémence.”

“Whatever cross God lays upon us he will give us strength to sustain.
Go, my children, and pray to him. I must be alone while I write this
letter, for it will need to be very cautiously but very distinctly
worded. The posts are not safe.”



CHAPTER X.

THE DRAWING OF THE LOT.

  “Our God upon the cross,
  Our king upon the scaffold; let us think
  Of these, and fold endurance to our hearts.”


Clémence went into her own room, and Henri followed her. The chamber
was severely simple, but scrupulously neat. The narrow bedstead might
have suited a nun, and the table and chairs were of unpainted deal:
but an ivory crucifix, exquisitely carved, hung over the bed; and the
white-washed wall was adorned with a little tier of book-shelves,
constructed by Henri, and containing a select and precious library--the
“Augustinos” of Jansenius, the works of Arnauld, Nicole, and other
divines of the school of Port-Royal, the sermons of Fénélon, and the
letters of Madame Guyon. Most precious of all was De Sacy’s translation
of the New Testament; and next to this inestimable treasure, the volume
best beloved and most carefully studied by Clémence was the Port-Royal
edition of the “Pensées de Pascal.” Many a line, marked by the hand
of the thoughtful young student, showed her sympathy with the soul of
the great teacher. Her heart, like his, had turned from all that earth
could give to seek a more enduring rest and a better portion. Had she
found it? At least she had found much that was unspeakably precious--a
God to be loved and served with all her mind, with all her soul, and
with all her strength. But she had been taught to dwell rather upon his
commandments than upon his gifts, and was still far from recognizing,
with St. Augustine, that he himself must give that which he commands.
She had seen the mystery of the cross, but dimly and afar off, reading
therein rather the exceeding sinfulness of the sin that had to be
atoned for, than the unutterable greatness of the love that atoned for
all. Consequently, her religion was one of surrender and renunciation,
not of joyous acceptance and activity; death to the flesh was her
watchword rather than life in the Spirit. The air she breathed was
bracing and invigorating, but it was cold and sunless. If it were the
will of God that Henri should become a hunted fugitive, that he should
be arrested as “refractory,” and should perish miserably in a fortress
dungeon, there was nothing for her to say but this, “It is the Lord;
let him do what seemeth him good.” And having said it, she would still
be an unprofitable servant. Her heart, it is true, would be broken; but
what mattered that to any one?

While such thoughts passed through the mind of Clémence, Henri stood
in silence, leaning against the little latticed window, and looking
out upon the peaceful country landscape. At last he spoke. “They are
gay enough in the village,” he said. “They do not seem to dread the
conscription half so much as they did last year. In fact, this new war
is very popular. Mathieu Féron, who was standing in his father’s forge
when I went by, said _he_ would be glad to be drawn; and Jacques Bonin,
and that other lad who is with him, were of the same mind, saying they
would like nothing better than to go and give the Russians a good
beating.”

“What miserable folly!” said Clémence with bitter sadness. “What have
the Russians done to us, that the blacksmith’s son and the butcher’s
boys of Brie should be eager to go and kill them?”

“I daresay you know as well as they do,” returned Henri.

“‘It is in his heart to pluck up and to destroy kingdoms not a few,’”
Clémence quoted. “But, Henri,” she added, with a sudden gleam of hope,
“may not good for us spring out of this madness of theirs? Might we
not, even if you draw a bad number, find a substitute? You know there
is nothing we would not part with to raise the money--_nothing_.”

Henri shook his head. “Last time,” he said, “the price went up to three
thousand francs, and beyond it. Indeed, it was difficult to get one at
any price. But that is not all,”--he lowered his voice: “Clémence, I
have reason to think M. le Maire means no good to me.”

She started. “Why do you say that?” she asked, with a quick fading of
the new-born hope.

“Quietly as we have lived here,” Henri resumed, “we are not quite
unknown. Every one is aware that I am the son of Henri Charles de
Talmont, who died for his King in La Vendée. I have no favour to hope.
On the contrary, I think M. le Maire would be glad to see me with a
musket on my shoulder.”

“If that be the case,” Clémence returned sadly, “at least we may thank
God that he cannot tamper with the numbers.”

“The numbers we are to draw? They matter less than you think. The lists
_must_ be filled up; and so many young men have been taken already that
few enough are left to choose from now. In any case, our little village
will have to contribute its full quota; and even should _I_ succeed in
escaping, some other luckless lad will have to go in my place.”

“It is not the misfortune of serving as a soldier that you want to
escape, but the dishonour, nay the sin, of serving a usurper.”

“But, Clémence”-- He paused.

“Well, brother?”

“It is no sin to fight for France,--for France, not for Napoleon.”

“There is no France,” Clémence returned proudly--“no France that we
can recognize apart from the King of France, Louis Dix-huit.”

“Of whom _I_ know no more than Féron or Bonin knows of the Emperor of
Russia.”

“What does that matter? What do you mean, Henri?”

“That we think Féron and Bonin a couple of fools because they are
longing to go and destroy the Emperor of Russia, about whom they know
nothing. Are _we_ so much wiser if we let ourselves be destroyed for a
king of France about whom we know just as little?”

“Not for _a_ king of France, but for _the_ King,” Clémence answered
gently. “And not alone for the King, but for truth, and loyalty, and
God.”

No more was said; for at that moment they heard the voice of Madame
de Talmont, who, having finished her letter, called her daughter to
read it. Henri stood yet beside the window; but it was not the quiet
wintry scene without which was passing before the boy’s anxious
eyes. He saw instead his mother’s peaceful home invaded by ruthless
soldiers; he heard the clank of their spurs, the tread of their feet
upon the stair, their oaths, their threats as they sought everywhere
for him, the fugitive. He saw--he heard much more--his dwelling given
over to pillage--_that_, perhaps, might be borne; but his mother,
his sister, exposed to all the wrongs and insults a lawless soldiery
could inflict, and _had_ inflicted in like cases! No; he could not
risk it. Not for all the kings of France that ever wore a crown!
Better serve Napoleon--better a thousand times! And, after all, what
was Napoleon--what were emperors and kings, to him and his? What was
death on the battle-field? He had always heard that such a death was
honourable and noble, and at all events a man could die but once. But
the deserter’s fate was only terrible; suffering without glory, “the
pang without the palm.” From those dreary fortress prisons where the
“refractory” toiled in the garb of convicts, fed on bread and water,
with shaven heads and fettered feet, no man ever came forth alive.

Days wore on, bringing the dreaded morning that was to decide the fate
of the conscripts. Madame de Talmont wrapped her mantle around her and
took the arm of her son. Clémence also was prepared to accompany them
to the village. Henri, who looked very pale, attempted a remonstrance.
“The place will be crowded to-day,” he said. “It is not fit for _you_,
mother, or for Clémence.”

But they would not listen. “There is no country lad,” said his mother,
“who will not have his people with him to-day to learn his fate; and
shall De Talmont go to the drawing alone, as if no one cared for him?”

As they passed along, they could not avoid hearing the mocking remarks
which were exchanged by the peasants of Brie when they saw the proud
aristocrats, whose lives had flowed on for years beside yet apart from
their own, forced at last into fellowship with their neighbours by a
common hope and fear. The silk of Madame de Talmont’s mantle, well-worn
yet unmistakably elegant, rubbed against the homespun gown of the
baker’s widow, and both faces were pale with one anxiety.

“Ah, madame, there’s little chance for us this time,” said Widow Simon.
“_They_ like it, the young folk. _They_ know no better. But God help
the old!”

A crowd of women were standing together in the town hall, while the
young men went inside into the mayor’s office to draw each his number
from the box. Without, in the village street, a band was playing
martial airs, and people were shouting, “Vive l’Empereur!”

Every minute or two some one came out of the office, swaggering or
downcast, as the case might be. Widow Simon’s son had drawn a very high
number, which made him comparatively safe; and Madame de Talmont felt
glad ever afterwards that she congratulated the mother. Mathieu Féron
came out waving his cap triumphantly, and shouting, “Vive l’Empereur!
I am going to fight the Russians! Hammer and tongs, good-bye!”

Then Henri came. He was calm, but a few shades paler than before. He
showed his number--_eleven_. No one spoke; but a moment after Clémence
touched his arm and whispered hurriedly, “Come out into the air. Our
mother is growing faint.”

“Let us go home,” said Madame de Talmont, sighing heavily. The crowd
was increasing every moment, and the din and tumult were deafening.
With some impatience Henri pushed aside those who stood in his path,
and there was a sharp ring in his voice as he said, “Make way, make
way, good people!”

“Oh yes; make way for the new conscript. How well M. de Talmont will
look in the awkward squad!” cried some one.

Féron had crossed the street to the little inn opposite the Mairie, and
was about to drink the Emperor’s health in a cup of good red wine, a
practice much in favour with the conscripts, but before tasting it he
pushed through the throng, and offered the brimming goblet to Henri.
“Drink, M. de Talmont,” he said. “We are all comrades now, and the
sooner we learn good fellowship the better.”

Henri pushed the cup aside without a word; but Clémence spoke gently to
the village lad. “It is not that my brother would not drink with you,
Mathieu,” she said; “but he is troubled just now, and so are we--like
your mother and your sisters.”

No other word was spoken until the De Talmonts reached their home, and
even then very few. Madame de Talmont and Clémence arranged everything,
and Henri seemed quite passive in their hands. According to their plan,
he was to leave the cottage after nightfall, and travelling on foot
by unfrequented ways, to try to reach the neighbourhood of their old
home in the Bocage, where the faithful Grandpierre, who had been their
father’s steward, would receive and protect him. A little money and a
change of linen were concealed about his person, but on no account must
he look like a traveller. So long had Madame de Talmont contemplated
the necessity for this journey that she was able to give her son the
fullest and clearest directions.

At length all was done. The last meal was eaten together, or at least a
pretence was made of eating it. Henri embraced his mother, and received
her parting blessing; then Clémence, wrapping a shawl around her,
said, “The night is fine; I will go with you to the stile of the far
corn-field.”

They walked along in silence. They had worlds to say to each other,
and this might be their last opportunity on earth, yet neither found a
word. Not until the parting-place was reached did Clémence whisper, as
she slipped a purse into her brother’s hand, “There are five napoleons,
Henri; you will be sure to want them. And oh! write to us as soon as
you can. I will try to cheer and comfort our mother. Just one word
more, dearest of brothers. Pray to God, seek to have him for your
friend; then, whatever happens”-- But here her voice failed utterly.

Henri threw his arms around her, and his voice was hoarse and changed,
very unlike his own. “Clémence,” he said, “promise me one thing.”

“Yes.”

“That, _whatever happens_, you will not hate or curse me, or call me
traitor, but forgive and love me still; that you will plead with my
mother to forgive me”--

“Forgive you! love you still! What can you mean, Henri? It is not
possible we should ever change to each other. Not--_possible_,” she
sobbed, clinging to him, and straining him to her heart in an embrace
that seemed as if no power on earth could sunder it.

Somehow or other Henri freed himself at last. He said in a kind of
choked whisper, “Remember my words. Good-bye, and God--your God--bless
you.” One last lingering look, and he turned away, ran quickly down the
sloping corn-field, and was soon lost to sight.

But he did not take the path that Clémence supposed. He returned to
the village by a circuitous route, and about midnight tapped gently
at the curé’s door. The priest was evidently on the watch, for he
opened the door and admitted him at once, then shut and bolted it, and
extinguished the light he had kept burning in his window as a guide to
his expected guest.



CHAPTER XI.

ONE OF HALF A MILLION.

  “It is not youth that turns
    From the field of spears again,
  For the boy’s high heart too proudly burns
    Till it rests among the slain.”


It was evening in a crowded barrack-room in Paris. Recruits, not
yet clad in uniform, but wearing the blouses or the coarse fustian
jackets they had brought from their native villages, chatted, drank,
quarrelled, or dozed upon the benches or about the floor. One noisy
fellow was singing the Marseillaise at the top of his voice, another
was defying any man in France to beat him at single-stick, but by far
the greater number seemed dispirited and utterly weary.

A young lad had seated himself at the table, beneath one of the lamps
which, at long distances, lit up the darkness of the great bare room.
Writing materials were before him, and he had begun a letter, but
paused, as if unable to proceed, and shaded his face with his hand.
Presently the tears dropped slowly down between his fingers, blistering
the paper; then once more he seized the pen, and wrote eagerly and
rapidly:--

“Dearest mother, forgive me. I could not--no, I could not expose you
and Clémence to the terrible sufferings inflicted upon the families of
the refractory, even if, for myself, I was strong enough to encounter
the horrors of a convict prison. There was no way but the way I took.
M. le Curé answered for me to the maire, and concealed me in his
house until marching orders came. As we started in the gray dawn of a
winter’s morning, I hoped to pass unnoticed; but so many villagers were
there to bid farewell to their friends, that I know you must have heard
all. Mother, Clémence, pray for me; and oh, mother, forgive me if you
can! It is not for Napoleon I am going to fight, but for France.”

“Conscript, do you want that letter put into the post to-night?” asked
a short, thick-set, red-haired man with a corporal’s badge on his
sleeve; “because, if you do, I am going out, and I am a very obliging
fellow.”

Henri looked up quickly. He might perhaps have doubted the corporal’s
word, but five or six other letters which he held in his hand seemed to
corroborate his statement; besides, he knew that for him there would be
no leave to go out that night.

“Then I shall be very much obliged to you, corporal,” he said.

“Quick with you then. Sign your name and give it to me. I cannot wait
all night. You may make my compliments to your sweetheart while you are
about it, however.”

Henri hastily folded and sealed his letter, and put it in the
corporal’s outstretched hand.

“Peste, man!” said the other impatiently; “where is the postage?”

Henri took out half a franc. “That is it, I think,” he said, without
noticing the signs one of his comrades was making to attract his
attention. The corporal flung the coin upon the table, and caught it
again, as if to try whether it was genuine, muttered a curse, and went
his way.

“Fool!” said Henri’s neighbour. “Did you not see he wanted something to
drink? What else should he take your letter for? Look out for yourself
on parade to-morrow; he will do you a mischief if he can.”

“And who cares?” cried the chanter of the Marseillaise. “We want no
aristocrats among us. ‘Çà ira! çà ira!’”

“We want no bad companions either,” said Féron, who was standing near,
“so you may keep your breath for your eternal ‘Çà ira,’ Guillaume St.
Luc.” Then, going over to Henri, he sat down beside him, and laying his
hand on his shoulder, said in a low voice, “Keep up your heart, M. de
Talmont. Who knows but you have a marshal’s bâton in your knapsack?”

Henri felt grateful for the kind words, and perhaps yet more so for the
form of address, which had not fallen upon his ear since the miserable
morning when he marched out of Brie--a conscript. He placed his white,
delicate hand in the rough palm of the blacksmith’s son. “You are a
good comrade,” he said.

“I vowed you should find me that, the day Mademoiselle Clémence spoke
to me so kindly,” returned Féron.

“But as to the marshal’s bâton,” resumed Henri, “that is a fine story.
Six feet of Russian clay to lie in is what more of us are likely to
get, I fancy.”

“No good comes of burying ourselves before we are dead,” returned the
cheery Féron. “Of course, some are killed in every war. It is their
luck. If a Russian bullet has my name upon it, why, then, I shall have
the consolation of falling in the greatest war of the greatest captain
that ever lived. I shall see his eagles flap their wings over Moscow
and St. Petersburg. I shall die in the hour of victory, and I shall
die shouting, ‘Vive l’Empereur!’” In fact, the last words so nearly
approached a shout already, that they were taken up and re-echoed by
those around.

Then Féron resumed his low tone. “M. de Talmont, may I give you a word
of advice?”

“Certainly, comrade.”

“When you hear other people shouting, always shout too; and the greater
fools you think them, the louder you ought to shout, if only by way of
drowning their foolish voices.”

For the first time since the day of the conscription Henri laughed;
and Féron presently continued, “But as for me, I do not shout ‘Vive
l’Empereur!’ like a fool. I know very well what I am about. I am only
a conscript, it is true, but I am a soldier. The whole world is before
me, and if I am brave, active, and resolute, the marshal’s bâton is
no impossible dream for me. If we had lived in the old times, M. de
Talmont, you would have ridden a fine horse and worn a beautiful sword;
and I should have been like the dust beneath your feet--a private all
my days, and no more. Thanks to the Revolution and the Empire, we have
changed all that; so now we can be good comrades, as you have been kind
enough to say.”

Good comrades they were through many a dreary day of drill and
marching. At first the physical hardships of his life weighed so
heavily upon Henri that thought and feeling were almost crushed into
silence. When he halted for the night, after a long day’s march, he
was scarcely conscious of anything except weary limbs and blistered
feet. During his stay at the depôt in Metz, where the conscripts
had to go through some preliminary training, things were scarcely
better. The moral and the mental atmosphere of the barrack-room were
alike abhorrent to his refined, sensitive nature; while the cruel and
degrading punishments that followed any failure in skill or quickness
on the parade-ground, forced him to bend all his remaining energies
to the task of avoiding them. No answer to his letter from Paris ever
reached him, and this added to the dull apathy that was creeping over
his soul. His mother, he feared, was implacable. And Clémence?--perhaps
his mother would not allow her to write, perhaps she herself was too
deeply offended to make the attempt.

At last marching orders came once more. Strange to say, from that day
the heavy cloud of gloom that hung over Henri began to lighten. Change
of scene proved a tonic, and as he grew accustomed to long marches he
ceased to suffer so greatly from fatigue. Like other young conscripts
who did not droop and fail utterly, he gradually plucked up strength
and spirits. As he was uniformly gentle and courteous--no ordinary
merit in a French soldier of the Empire--he often met with much
kindness from the families upon whom he was billeted; and the extreme
youthfulness of his appearance gained many friends for him. By the time
he reached the headquarters of the imperial army, the profession into
which he had been forced was rather an object of indifference than of
detestation to him. When the recruits were reviewed by Napoleon in
person, he remembered the sage advice of Féron, and did not imagine
that a cry of “Vive l’Empereur!” from the lips of a De Talmont would
awaken the slumbering dust of his ancestors. Moreover, he could not but
gaze, with a kind of fascination that had in it as much of admiration
as of horror, upon the face of the man whose will at that moment was
the most stupendous force in all the world. Henri de Talmont did not
love Napoleon Buonaparte--he feared him, perhaps he hated him--but,
like almost every other man in Europe, he believed him irresistible.
There was a sense of exhilaration in the universal feeling that
to march under him was infallibly to march to victory. Some faint
reflected glow from the enthusiasm of all around could not fail to
reach him and to awaken stirrings of the martial ardour that slumbered
in the son of a long line of gallant warriors.

An unknown unit in a regiment of infantry--young recruits who as yet
had won no laurels--Henri de Talmont marched one day over a temporary
wooden bridge which had been flung by French pontoniers across the
Niemen. “Now, mes enfants,” their captain said, “you are standing upon
Russian ground.”

They cheered, embraced one another, and shouted until they were hoarse,
“Vive l’Empereur! vive Napoleon! A bas les Russes!” Henri shouted as
loudly as the rest; while, at least to the human eye, coming events
cast no shadow before, nor was there any foreboding voice raised to
whisper, as that vast and gallant host passed by,--

  “The snow shall be their winding-sheet,
  And every turf beneath their feet
    Shall be a soldier’s sepulchre!”



CHAPTER XII.

ONE OF FIFTY MILLION.

  “The might that slumbers in a peasant’s arm.”


A great battle, and a great victory--this was what Henri de Talmont,
in common with the six hundred thousand fighting men who crossed the
Niemen under Napoleon, fully expected to see. Young hearts kindled,
young blood grew hot at the thought; while the veterans of Lodi,
of Austerlitz, of Jena, saw their cherished laurels fade and pale
before the lustre of those with which they hoped soon to adorn their
victorious brows. And then how royally would the treasures of Moscow
and St. Petersburg recompense all their toils!

But there was no great battle. The Russians, under Barclay de Tolly,
retreated without fighting, skilfully drawing the enemy after them
into the immense and dreary plains of the interior. Then followed a
succession of marches, as wearisome and far more monotonous than those
by which the recruits had reached the headquarters of their army. The
weather was hot and sultry--a curious first experience of the climate
of Russia--and both men and horses suffered from the want of water.
Other wants, too, were supplied but carelessly, or perhaps not at all.
Many a conscript lay down supperless night after night beside the fire
of his bivouac, to sleep away his hunger as best he could. It is said
that some even died of starvation, while others found unwholesome
nutriment in the unripe corn and the raw vegetables that grew along
their route. Nor did the knowledge that the general of his division was
feasting upon sterlet and champagne make the hard, insufficient fare
of the conscript more palatable. “It is the soldier’s own fault if he
wants anything in an enemy’s country,” was a maxim often repeated; but
what can the soldier do when the people flee at his approach, carrying
off or destroying everything they possess, and the country, at best but
thinly inhabited, is left a desert around him?[23] Yet it must be owned
that the French had themselves to thank for some of their privations,
since those peasants who did not flee at their approach were plundered,
beaten, ill-treated, perhaps even murdered.

One day Henri accompanied a detachment of his regiment which was sent
out on a foraging expedition. They were under the command of Seppel,
the corporal who had undertaken to post Henri’s letter in Paris; but
he was a sergeant now, and rode a good horse, while the others tramped
wearily on foot. After a long march through a dreary country they saw,
towards evening, a brown village surrounded by promising corn-fields.
“Courage, mes enfants,” cried Seppel; “here is luck for us at last. No
doubt food and water, ay, and brandy too, are to be found yonder.”

They marched across the fields, trampling down the standing corn
without remorse. Henri and some of his comrades were hungry enough to
pluck the unripe ears and to eat them as they passed, like another
company strangely opposite to these in their character and their place
in the world’s history.

As they approached the village, they became aware that its inhabitants
had not only seen them, but were prepared for their approach. A crowd
of men and boys, armed with axes, pitchforks, and reaping-hooks, came
towards them with loud cries and intentions evidently the most hostile.

Seppel caught hold of a tall, gaunt soldier, whose white uniform
gleamed conspicuous amongst the blue tunics of the rest, and pushed him
to the front. “Here, Klinki, Schlinki, or whatever your unpronounceable
name may be, tell these beggars in their own jargon that we want food
for man and horse, and that if they give it, in plenty and at once, we
will do them no harm.”

The Pole--who had been brought with the party to act as interpreter,
as he happened to know a little Russian--tried to gain a hearing; but
in vain. So the Frenchmen drew their swords, and a brisk fight began.
Suddenly, however, Seppel observed something which made him call upon
his men to stop. He saw a party leaving the village and proceeding
towards the adjoining birch-wood, and he rightly conjectured that these
were the women and children under the escort of some of the men who
had remained behind for the purpose. In fact, this had been from the
first the design of the villagers, and the attack had been only a feint
made in order to gain time for its execution. Seppel raised his hand,
pointing to the retreating group. “Fire, mes enfants!” he cried; “fire
yonder--upon them!” They were just within musket-range, and the sharp,
ringing sound of the shots was followed by heart-rending cries.

There was no more thought of resistance. The village lads threw down
their extemporized weapons, and hurried to the assistance of their
friends. Soon the whole party, their movements quickened by terror, had
disappeared into the wood, carrying with them their wounded, perhaps
their dead. “Was not that well done?” laughed Seppel. “I knew they
would go to look after the women at the first cry.”

Thus Nicolofsky was taken by the French. The victors were soon busy
exploring the deserted cottages in search of food and vodka. Other
things too were needed.

“Here, blacksmith,” said Seppel to Féron, “look after my horse. He has
cast a shoe.”

“Yes, sergeant,” returned Féron coolly, “if you will find me a hammer
and tongs, and a nail or two.”

“Is that my business, stupid? Go and look. These fellows have horses,
so they must have smith’s tackle somewhere about.”

“And they call this conquering a country!” grumbled Féron as he walked
away. “Well, it may be glorious, but it is not particularly convenient
or amusing.”

At that moment there was a joyful shout from some of the party. Very
few fires were burning in the village on that warm summer evening, but
in one of the two largest cottages the great stove had been lighted,
and a capacious caldron of tschi was simmering over it. The French
soldiers fully appreciated the national dish of the Russians, and found
the prospect of an abundant and savoury supper very agreeable.

“Here is one good thing for me,” said Féron, glancing at the fire. “Now
for hammer and nails.--Talmont, you lazy fellow, don’t stand there
gazing at nothing, but come and help me to find them.”

But when they stood outside together, Féron’s tone changed. “M. Henri,”
he said in a quick, eager whisper, “show me your musket.”

Henri did so with a smile.

“Ah!” said Féron, looking relieved, “then after all you _did_ fire. I
feared you would not, and I was going to give you a word of advice.”

“I _did_ fire,” answered Henri in a low voice,--“in the air. What
_else_ could I do, Féron? they were women and children.”

“Well, perhaps _I_ did not shoot very straight either; still we are in
an enemy’s country. Why did not the Czar do whatever the Emperor wanted
him? But take care, M. Henri; that old fox Seppel is no friend of
yours.”

They entered another cottage in search of what they wanted, and Féron
struck his foot against a small bucket full of some liquid. “Ha! what
have we here? Vodka, I hope.” He stooped down and tasted it, but got
up with an air of disgust. “No such luck. Only frog’s ratefia” (so the
French called the kvass of the Russians). “How could any poor wretches
be expected to fight with such stuff as that in their insides?”

“Let me have a pull at it,” said Henri. “I am thirsty enough not to
despise even frog’s ratefia. Do you think Seppel means to stay here all
night?”

“He ought not; but if he finds vodka I would not answer for the
consequences. And certainly it is growing very late.”

Féron at last succeeded in finding the tools with which the villagers
performed whatever rude blacksmith’s work they needed. Then he
rejoined his companions, who were just beginning to help themselves
to the supper which had been prepared for very different guests by
the priest’s wife. The cottage was that of Pope Nikita, and the day
happened to be the name-day of Anna Popovna.

A good store of vodka had been found, and with this help the soldiers
soon forgot their troubles, past, present, and to come. They ate,
drank, and made merry; and the sergeant, far from being any check upon
their mirth, drank more deeply and talked more boisterously than any of
them. The night closed over them unawares, and of course there was now
no question of leaving their comfortable quarters until the morning.

Féron had brought in his hand a small piece of iron, as well as the
hammer and tongs he had been using. He had a jesting dispute with
one of his comrades, who called in question his capabilities as a
blacksmith. “Blacksmith, indeed!” said Féron. “That’s nothing. I am
quite an artist, messieurs. At Brie I was accounted a connoisseur--an
ornamental worker in brass, iron, and the other precious metals.”

“A fine story,” laughed Henri, who was greatly the better for his
comfortable meal. “At Brie your crooked nails were a joke for the whole
village.”

“Don’t talk, but let us _see_ what you can do. Give us a specimen,”
said a conscript, a timorous little fellow, who was unpopular in
the regiment because of his habit of shifting off his work upon his
comrades.

“Yes, I will,” returned Féron. “I’ll make an iron to brand you with
when you are caught trying to desert, as you are sure to be one of
these days.”

A general laugh followed this retort, then silence fell over the group,
while Féron hammered away at his task, and most of the others began to
doze in their places. When at last he held up triumphantly, in proof of
his skill, a finely-formed branding-iron with the letter N upon it, his
companions were far too sleepy to give him the applause he expected.

One hour--two hours passed away. All were sleeping now, even the
sentinels Seppel had placed outside as a matter of form. The village
of Nicolofsky was as still as it was wont to be in the noon of a
midsummer night. If a sound of weeping and lamentation came, softened
by distance, from the adjacent birch-wood, it failed to disturb the
sleepers. But the short summer night was soon over, and the dawn began
to creep in, cold and gray.

Its first faint light fell upon the figure of a mujik, who traversed,
with stealthy, silent footsteps, the deserted street of his native
village. As he passed the church he noticed that the door had been
forced open--though it was again roughly secured on the outside. He
removed the fastening and looked in. The spirit of wanton outrage,
only too common amongst the French soldiery, had made Seppel choose
that sacred place as a stable for his horse, and the animal was eating
corn out of a consecrated vessel placed upon the altar.[24] Michael
Ivanovitch ground his teeth, and his dark cheek flushed ominously; but
he passed on, for his heart was full of a great, deep anguish, before
which every other emotion paled and faded.

That which, at the risk of his life, he had come to fetch, was not
in the desecrated church. It had to be sought for in the very place
where most of the French soldiers had taken up their quarters for the
night--the cottage of Pope Nikita. The door of the cottage was half
open, and he saw that the floor was covered with sleeping forms clad
in the blue tunic of the French infantry. What matter to him? Blotting
out that sight, he saw the wistful, longing look in the dying eyes of
the girl he loved, and, before him, the sacred picture her faltering
accents had entreated him to bring to her. Thank God, there it hung
yet--on the cottage wall, in the right-hand corner. Could he tread
amongst those sleepers without awakening them, and reach it?

His step was noiseless as the footfall of the desert panther, and the
French were weary with marching, and most of them heavy with vodka.
He had grasped his prize--he stood with his hand on its frame, and a
momentary throb of triumph in his sorrowful heart, when suddenly a head
was raised; some one more wakeful than the rest had seen the intruder.
In an instant the alarm was given, and the whole group were on their
feet; in another, a dozen strong hands were laid at once upon Michael
Ivanovitch.

He struggled desperately, but what could one man do against a dozen
armed with swords and bayonets? He would have been cut down almost
immediately, had not Seppel, very sensibly, called upon his men to
spare his life and secure him as a prisoner. “He may serve for a guide,
or at least give us some information,” he said. Then he summoned the
Pole to act as interpreter, taking the precaution to make another
man--Féron it happened to be--stand before the prisoner with his loaded
musket pointed at his breast. “He looks dangerous,” he observed.

There was not much to be read in Michael’s stolid, determined face, as
the light of the early morning shone upon it. He had placed the sacred
picture in the breast of his caftan; but seeing the musket, he took
it out and laid it on the table. “They shall not harm _that_, at all
events,” he thought.

“Tell him,” said Seppel to the Pole, “that if he fails to satisfy us,
we will shoot him; but that if he behaves well, we will spare his life.”

The Pole interpreted, and Michael answered coolly, “Nitshevo.”

“That means,” the Pole explained, “‘It is no matter. I do not care.’”

“Ask him,” pursued Seppel, “what brought him here.”

Michael, as soon as he understood the question, pointed to the picture.

Seppel laughed incredulously; and the Pole inquired of his own accord,
“Is that the whole truth, Russian?”

“Da,” returned the prisoner.

“He says, ‘Yes,’” the Pole explained.

“Tell him he is a liar,” said Seppel.

A scornful smile was the only answer, and Seppel tried another course.
“Ask him,” he said, “how far it is from this place to Klopti.”

He did so; but Michael answered nothing.

“Tell him he must take us there to-day.”

Still no answer.

“Tell him if he chooses to behave in this way he has not two minutes to
live.”

“Nitshevo,” was the only reply.

This went on for some minutes, every inquiry being met by a dogged
silence, every threat by “Nitshevo.” At last Seppel lost patience, and
told Féron to fire upon the prisoner.

But Féron disliked the task, for he rather admired the courage of the
Russian. He slowly laid his finger on the trigger of his musket, then
withdrew it again. This he did twice, keenly watching the countenance
of the prisoner, which showed no perceptible change. All the French
soldiers had now crowded around them, and were watching the scene with
interested faces.

“Do not kill him, sergeant,” pleaded one.

“He is a brave fellow. Try something else first,” said another.

Seppel paused, and a new thought occurred to him. “Ah, yes,” he said,
“these Russian slaves understand nothing except it comes to them
through their bodily feelings. They are accustomed, I suppose, to be
treated like beasts of the field.--Pole, tell him he is our prisoner;
_that_, at least, we will make him know.--Féron, put down your musket,
and bring that branding-iron I saw you make last night; there is enough
fire yet in the stove to heat it red-hot.”

Féron obeyed without hesitation, even with alacrity; for it seemed to
him much better to brand a man on the hand than to shoot him through
the heart. So the letter N, fashioned in sport the night before, was
used in earnest now. It came down with burning pain, and left its mark,
indelible for ever, upon the unresisting hand of Michael.

For a moment his strong frame quivered, but his lips were silent,
pressed closely together. Then he turned to the Pole, and, for the
first time speaking of his own accord, he asked him, “What does that
mean?”

“It means that you belong now, soul and body, to our Emperor, the great
Napoleon. That which you bear on your hand is his mark--the first
letter of his name.”

Michael smiled slightly, and advancing to the table, laid the wounded
hand upon it. (Féron not unintentionally had made choice of the left
one.) Then with one blow from the axe which he drew from the sash of
his caftan, he severed it from his wrist. “Take what belongs to your
Emperor,” he said, turning proudly to the astonished group. “As for me,
I belong altogether to the Czar.”[25]

A thrill of involuntary admiration passed through the spectators,
and for some moments no one spoke. Meanwhile, in the calm summer sky
outside, the sun was rising, and its first red beams flashed through
the little window upon the homely features of the serf, which shone
with a courage and devotion that were almost sublime.

“Cut him down!” cried a solitary voice, that of the conscript who, the
night before, had challenged Féron’s skill. But half-a-dozen other
voices cried, “Shame!” while Seppel himself seemed to hesitate, and
stood with the air of a man perplexed and confounded.

In the meantime Henri de Talmont, who had hitherto taken no part in the
scene, walked boldly up to the prisoner. He held in his hand a fine
white cambric handkerchief, which he wound carefully about the wounded
arm. “As you love your Czar,” he said gently, “so we Royalists in
France loved our King.”

The words, of course, fell meaningless upon the ear of Michael; but
the tones in which they were uttered, and the action which accompanied
them, were abundantly intelligible. The eyes of the Russian serf and
the French gentleman met with a look of comprehension and sympathy.

“Shall we let him go?” Seppel asked at length. “What say you, mes
enfants?”

There was now not one dissentient voice, and Seppel turned to the
interpreter. “Tell him, Pole, that we Frenchmen know how to respect a
brave enemy. He is free.”

Michael heard, bowed his head gravely in acknowledgment, took up the
sacred picture with his remaining hand, and walked slowly out. He
scarcely noticed the ringing cheer which the excitable Frenchmen sent
after him. Their applause was nothing to him: it could not bring back
the young life of his betrothed, flowing forth so quickly through the
wound their guns had made last night. Enough if he might but be in
time to see her once again, and to comfort her dying moments with the
treasure he had risked so much to procure.

When he was gone, Seppel stretched his limbs once more before the
stove, and said half to himself with a meditative air, “After all, I
begin to doubt whether we shall succeed so easily in conquering these
Russians.”



CHAPTER XIII.

SERF AND BOYAR.

  “Vengeance, deep brooding o’er the slain,
    Had locked the source of softer woe;
  And burning pride and high disdain
    Forbade the rising tear to flow.”


It was evening. Ivan Pojarsky sat alone in the saloon of the Wertsch
family mansion. The costly furniture with which it was strewn had that
indescribable air of neglect and forlornness which household goods
assume when death, or sorrow deep as death, broods over their owners.
There was disorder too: chairs had been dragged carelessly about,
and their rich and delicate coverings soiled and crumpled; while a
beautiful climbing plant, laden with rare flowers, lay unheeded on the
floor beside the broken shaft that had been its support. A costly buhl
table near Ivan’s chair had the remains of his last meal upon it.

Within the apartment all was still,--Ivan sat motionless and silent,
his head resting on his hands,--but without there was a hoarse,
continuous, never-ending murmur, made up of many sounds. There was
the tramp of armed men, heavy and monotonous. There was the roll and
rumble of ten thousand wheels--wheels of every sort and description,
from those of the ponderous waggon laden with the goods of an entire
household to those of the light telega, from which every now and
then a scout was imparting to the breathless crowd his tidings that
the standards of Napoleon had been seen at such or such a point
of the Smolensko road. Mingling with and following the stately
rhythmic march of the disciplined hosts was the tread of innumerable
footsteps--footsteps of women and little children, of boys and aged
men, who were leaving with breaking hearts the only home they had
ever known. And if the weeping and wailing, the sighs and groans and
cries, which filled the clear September air did not rise above all
other sounds, it was only because the things most deep and real are
ofttimes the last to meet the eye or reach the ear--except, indeed, the
ever-present eye and the ever-listening ear of Him who notes “the sob
in the dark and the falling of tears.”

Suddenly Ivan raised his head and looked around him. The last few weeks
had changed him wonderfully. He appeared several years older--no longer
a stripling, but a man, with a man’s responsibilities, thoughts, and
duties. There was in his young face a look of sternness, as of one who
had to do hard things and to bid others do them; there was the high,
courageous, half-defiant air of one who dares death cheerfully, even
joyfully, and also an expression of proud though mournful satisfaction.
For had not he, a youth scarcely twenty, been intrusted with a terrible
secret, been charged with a desperate but honourable mission?

“Beg pardon, gospodin,” said a servant, entering. Ivan was now
virtually the master of the household, for both the Wertsches were
with the army--Adrian serving as a volunteer, Leon as a lieutenant of
hussars. “Here is a mujik,” continued the servant, “who wishes to speak
with your excellency.”

“Send him in,” said Ivan quickly. “And--stay a moment, Joseph. What
does your wife say of her mistress?”

“The countess, gospodin, will not hear reason from my wife, though
she has been waiting upon her these twenty years, any more than from
your excellency. ‘The French,’ says my lady, ‘will never enter holy
Moscow. They dare not.’ I must own, Lord Ivan, that Maria thinks this
very hard; because if our lady the countess will not be persuaded to
go away, as all other folk are doing who have brains in their heads,
she--my wife I mean--must stay, too, of course, and be murdered by the
Nyemtzi.”

“Murdered by the Nyemtzi shall _our_ women never be, Joseph,” said
Ivan, with a flash in his eyes. “At the worst, we know what to do.
Tell thy wife the countess must be induced to quit this house before
to-morrow night. If she will not leave the city, like a sensible woman,
at least she must go to the Devitshei Convent, and Maria must go with
her. I suppose even the infidel French will scarcely outrage _that_
asylum. Meanwhile, send in this mujik; perhaps he brings tidings.”

A tall figure entered, with a bandaged arm, and wearing a rough, soiled
caftan, and heavy Russia leather boots that left their traces on the
inlaid floor.

Ivan looked up, started, hesitated, then exclaimed in great surprise,
“Michael Ivanovitch! One-eared Michael!”

“One-handed Michael now, at your service, Ivan Barrinka; and well if
_that_ were the only loss I had to tell of.”

“Have you come from Nicolofsky?” asked Ivan.

“Yes, I come from Nicolofsky. Barrinka, the Nyemtzi have been there.”

“Ah!” cried Ivan. “Curse them!”

“I have done with cursing them, Ivan Barrinka--I cannot find words--so
I leave them to God. He knows what wages they have earned, and he will
pay them one day. But as for me, my heart is hot and dry, and unless I
can go and fight and kill some of them I shall die.”

“What has happened, Michael? what have they done to you?”

“At Christmas I was to be married to Anna Popovna. You remember her,
Ivan Barrinka?”

“_Remember_ her!” cried Ivan angrily. “Of what are you dreaming,
Michael? Do you not know that I--I--”

“Oh, I forgot--it seems a thousand years ago,” said Michael, in a sad,
dreamy voice. “Besides, it was never anything but child’s play with
you. Ivan Barrinka, we quarrelled in the old days, you and I. She used
to like you better than me, because you were handsome and a boyar. But
that is all over now. We shall quarrel no more, for Anna Popovna is
with the saints. The Nyemtzi have killed her.”

Ivan’s agitation was extreme. He still fancied he loved the village
girl, no real passion having as yet taken possession of his heart to
“put the old cheap joy in the scorned dust.” In wild excitement he
strode up and down the room, uttering incoherent lamentations and
cursing the French; but at last he stopped before Michael and asked
briefly, in a choking voice, “How?”

Michael’s grief had been his companion for weary days and nights--he
was used to it now, so he answered very quietly, “One evening we saw
the blue-coats coming, and some of us went out to show fight and keep
them off a little, while the rest convoyed our women safely into
the wood. But the scoundrels saw them, and fired. The distance was
long, and they did not take good aim. Only two shots told: one of
them wounded the lad we used to call little Peter rather badly in the
shoulder; the other--killed her--”

“At once!”

“She lived some hours. She did not suffer much. She died--in peace.”
Michael spoke with difficulty, and in a low voice. There was a pause;
then he resumed, taking a picture from beneath his caftan and showing
it to Ivan, “Her last look was fixed on this. Her father gave it to me,
because I brought it to her from his house, where the Nyemtzi were.”

“Did the French stay there for the night?”

Michael nodded.

“Then what were you about, Michael Ivanovitch,” cried Ivan with sudden
energy--“what were you about that you did not set the village on fire
and burn it over their heads?”

Michael’s remaining hand fell by his side with a gesture of mingled
admiration and regret. “Great St. Nicholas!” he exclaimed.

“Well?” said Ivan.

“We never thought of it,” cried Michael. “Would to God we had! What a
sight it would have been!”

“You may yet see a greater, Michael Ivanovitch.”

There was silence, and the tumult outside became audible once more to
both.

At last Michael resumed. “I am forgetting what I came for. Since that
night my head is confused. I live those last hours over and over
again. I hear nothing, I see nothing except that bed of leaves in the
forest, and the torches flickering upon those sad faces all around, and
that one sweet white face--except when I sleep and dream of killing
Frenchmen. Ay, killing Frenchmen, that is it! Ivan Barrinka, I come
here to beg of you--if you like it, on my bended knees--to speak one
word for me to our lord the Czar,--only one word.”

“My good friend--for my friend you are, in the love we both have for
the dead--I would speak a hundred if I could; but the Czar is in St.
Petersburg, and I am here. I scarce hope ever to see again the face
that is to us all as the sun in the heavens.”

“Then give me a written word for him. You are a boyar, and can do it.”

“Nay, I should not presume so far. He does not even know of my
existence--_yet_.” The last word was spoken proudly, with an evident
under-current of meaning. “But what is it you want, Michael?”

“See, I have lost my left hand.”

“Another French outrage?”

“Yes, and no. When I went to fetch that picture, they caught me,
and put their Emperor’s mark on my hand. Was I to carry _that_ with
me all my life, and after my life in the resurrection, before the
judgment-seat of God? I had a good hand still, and a good axe in it,
and with these I struck off what they had defiled. Now there is not an
inch of me that does not belong to the Czar.”

“Nobly done, brother!” cried Ivan, embracing him. “I am proud of my old
Nicolofsky playfellow. Michael, will you cast in your lot with me, and
let us serve the Czar together?”

“Ay, Barrinka; but there is the difficulty. No use in _my_ offering
myself for a recruit. No officer would take me, because I want my hand.
That is why I pray you to ask the Czar to let me fight for him in spite
of that loss. You could tell him I would serve him so faithfully.”

“I can show you, even now, a way to render him signal and splendid
service; but it is hazardous, _very_. It is scarce likely we shall live
to go through with it; but, Michael, if we do, I think the Czar will
have cause to thank us.”

“And shall we kill plenty of Nyemtzi?” Michael asked eagerly.

“We shall deal their Emperor a blow he will never forget.” Ivan sat
down before him, looked at him in silence for some moments, and then,
apparently changing the subject, he asked, “Are you not surprised at
the condition in which you find the city?”

“What condition?--Oh yes; I saw crowds of people going away.” Then,
looking up--“But is it true, is it _really_ true, Barrinka, that holy
Moscow is to be given up to the infidel Nyemtzi?”

“Too true. A great battle was fought a few days ago at Borodino. The
French say they won, and we say we won; but, however that may be, the
result is for us as bad as a defeat. Marshal Kutusov says it is now
hopeless to think of defending the city. All day our soldiers, with
breaking hearts, have been marching through on their way to Vladimir.”

“And without fighting? Ivan Barrinka, it is too bad! So those accursed
Nyemtzi will have it all--the glorious, beautiful city of the Czar; the
tombs, the treasures of his fathers; the forty times forty churches,
the holy pictures of the saints! Woe, woe! Why have we lived to see
such days?”

“Listen, Michael,” said Ivan, arresting the hand with which he was
tearing his beard. “Listen to me. The Nyemtzi shall _not_ have it.”

“What do you mean, Barrinka?”

“This. We will do for holy Moscow--our beautiful, our beloved--what a
father would do for an only daughter, a husband for a wife, a brother
for a sister, if there were no other way to save them from those
accursed Nyemtzi--our own hands will deal the death-blow.”

“How?”

“What should _you_ have done with Nicolofsky while the French were in
it?”

“Holy saints! Then you mean to burn the city?”

“These hands of mine will fling the brand into this house, which has
been my home ever since I left your village. Nay, more, I am one of the
directors of the secret band commissioned to spread the conflagration.”

Michael stared at him in amazement, but did not speak.

Ivan resumed: “Perhaps you will think me dreaming--at least you will
wonder by what authority I tell you these strange and awful things.
I was a boy when last we met, Michael; indeed, until six weeks ago I
was little more. Then the war broke out, and the Czar came here. I saw
him; not for the first time, Michael Ivanovitch, for it was he--he
and no other--whom I saw in my childhood’s days ministering to poor
unconscious Stefen on the bank of the Oka. My heart went forth to him
at once, laid itself at his feet, vowed to serve him until death.”

“So? Then _you_ fight for love, Ivan Barrinka. _I_ fight for hate.”

“I too, after what you have told me to-night,” said Ivan, with flashing
eyes. He continued more calmly: “Then I went to the governor, Count
Rostopchine, and told him my story. I said that, though my name was of
the noblest, I had not, like other boyars, lands, or serfs, or gold
to give to the Czar; I had only a strong heart, full of devotion.
He answered me, for he saw I was in earnest, ‘Such hearts are what
we want now.’ Then he told me what to do. At first, Michael, I was
horror-stricken. I had rather have been burned at the stake myself. But
he assures me there is no other way of saving holy Russia and the Czar.
Moreover, most of the nobles, and all the merchants except seven, have
resolved upon the sacrifice of their property. Loss of life we will try
to prevent.”

“I suppose all good Russians, save those who, like you, have work to
do, are leaving the city?”

“Almost all; except the ‘black people,’ who think they have nothing
to lose and perhaps something to gain by the confusion. A few others
are remaining on various pretexts; for instance, Countess Wertsch,
the owner of this house, obstinately insists upon staying, positively
refusing to believe that the French will enter the city--a great
embarrassment to me, since I cannot burn the house over her head. I
must get her away somehow. For this and other matters I need advice
from my good old friend Petrovitch, and I mean to go to him at
daybreak. You shall come with me; I should like to tell him what you
have done, Michael.”

“Anywhere with you. There will be plenty of work for us, and plenty of
danger too. All the better for me. But you will be sorry to part with
life, Ivan Barrinka.”

For a moment Ivan’s face assumed a grave and thoughtful expression;
then it gradually lighted up, until it absolutely glowed with
enthusiasm. “If I fall,” he said, “Count Rostopchine has promised to
name me to the Czar.”



CHAPTER XIV.

THE FORLORN HOPE.

  “Oh, sweet and strange it seems to me, that ere this day is done
  The voice that now is speaking may be beyond the sun,
  For ever and for ever with those just souls and true;
  And what is life that we should moan? why make we such ado?”


The two young men wore out the short summer night in earnest talk.
Neither thought of sleep; but Ivan was careful to provide a comfortable
repast for Michael, and was by no means reluctant to share it. Very
early in the morning they set out on foot for the merchants’ quarter.
The shades of night had brought no repose to the doomed city; hour
after hour the living tide flowed on without pause or respite, and Ivan
and Michael found it extremely difficult to thread their way through
the dense confused mass of vehicles and foot passengers that crowded
every street.

At last they reached the dwelling of Petrovitch. The doors were all
open. Unhindered and unannounced, they walked into the great hall. Here
they found the whole family assembled. In the midst sat the patriarch,
with silver hair and beard, and large, wide-open, sightless eyes. His
face was as calm and almost as colourless as that of the dead; but its
look expressed the steadfast high resolve of a “living soul,” the heir
of a deathless immortality.

All around that calm centre there was profound agitation. Women were
weeping and wringing their hands; and those “tears of bearded men”
which are so rare and sad to see were flowing without restraint. One of
the sons of Petrovitch--in the green uniform of a Russian grenadier,
his military hat, with its long black feather tipped with white, laid
beside him--was sobbing bitterly himself, while he tried to comfort a
little girl whom he held in his arms. Another young soldier, almost a
boy, seemed to be imploring the interference of his mother, who was
sitting a little apart, her face covered with a kerchief. At one side
of the old man’s chair stood his eldest son, with a look of indignant
appeal and remonstrance; at the other knelt Feodor--and _his_ face no
one saw.

“Welcome, Prince Ivan!” cried Ivan Petrovitch as soon as he perceived
his entrance. “Come hither and speak to our father. It may be he will
listen to you, as the son of his ancient lord.”

“Is that Prince Ivan?” asked the old man. “Son of my dear lord, ever
welcome in this house, yet give us leave, I pray you, for a little
space, for this is a bitter hour to me and to all of us. I am bidding
farewell to every one in whose veins my blood is flowing. By-and-by I
will talk once more with thee.”

Ivan would have withdrawn, from a feeling that the scene was too sacred
for any not immediately belonging to the family; but the eldest son of
Petrovitch appealed to him once more. “Have you not a word--you whom he
loved so dearly--to persuade him against flinging his life away?”

“My son, I am not flinging my life away,” the old man interposed. “That
would be a sin. I am only laying it at the feet of the God who gave
it. He has given me a message for these Nyemtzi, and shall I spare to
deliver it?”

“But how is this, dädushka?” asked Ivan gently, as he drew nearer to
the weeping group. “How is this? Do you not go, with these your beloved
ones, to a place of safety?”

“I go indeed to a place of safety, but not with these. My resolve has
long been made; nor is it for thee, Prince Ivan, nor for you, sons and
grandsons, true and well-beloved though you are, to change it now. Here
have I lived, and here will I die. The Nyemtzi shall enter holy Moscow
only over my body.”[26]

“A vain sacrifice, useless as it is cruel,” said Ivan Petrovitch in a
broken voice.

“My son, it is neither. I have no strong arm to fight for the Czar, but
I have yet a voice with which to hurl defiance against his enemies. It
is the mightiest of all voices, though it makes no sound--the voice of
blood. My blood shall cry to the invader from the gate of the city I
have loved: ‘It is but vain the labour that you take to conquer this
land for your Prince. A land where youth and manhood arm to resist
you, while old age dies beneath your feet rather than submit to your
sway--such a land is unconquerable.’ Therefore, my children, no more
words. They are but needless pain, and time presses. I think my soldier
lads should even now be rejoining their regiments. Are you all here, my
brave boys whom I have given to the Czar?”

The sergeant of grenadiers answered for the rest, “Yes, my father, all.”

“Four sons and nine sons’ sons--thirteen in all--have I given to our
lord. Soldiers of holy Russia, fight bravely; and may God prosper your
arms and give you the victory! I doubt not he will, for your cause is
just.”

“My father, ere we go,” said the sergeant, advancing and kneeling
before him, “bless thy sons.”

In a voice tremulous with deep feeling the solemn patriarchal blessing
was given. One after another the members of the family advanced to
receive it: first the soldier sons and grandsons, keeping down their
emotion with manly self-control; then Ivan Petrovitch, and a few others
whose circumstances had prevented their volunteering with the rest;
lastly the women and children. But Feodor did not stir from his place,
until at length the old man called him by name. Then he slowly rose and
stood before him.

“Son Ivan,” said Petrovitch, “come hither and take this boy’s hand in
thine. Children, you know that little Feodor is all God has left with
me of Maria Petrovna, the daughter of my old age, the one white dove in
our falcon’s nest. Be tender with him, all of you; and thou, Ivan, take
care of the lad, and be to him a father in my place.--Feodor, my little
Feodor, Maria’s son, God bless thee!”

“Kneel, boy,” whispered Ivan Petrovitch almost angrily, as Feodor, like
one in a trance, stood motionless, with his passive hand in his uncle’s.

The boy obeyed mechanically. The aged eyes of Petrovitch were full of
unaccustomed tears, and his voice faltered, grew almost inaudible, as
he murmured the words of blessing over that beloved head. But Feodor
showed no sign of feeling, except that cheek and lip were white as
marble.

Ivan Pojarsky, who, though he had withdrawn into the background, had
not left the place, observed him with sorrowful wonder. “The boy,” he
thought, “will soon forget the old man, who will die with a prayer for
him upon his lips.”

Once more the aged voice was heard. Petrovitch arose slowly from
his seat, and lifted up his hands over the group. “Now farewell, my
children, and God bless you. May he grant us in his mercy a joyful
meeting in the home above, the abode of the righteous, where no enemy
or evil thing can enter. Go in peace.”

Sadly and slowly, one by one, they turned away. Ivan Pojarsky followed,
to assure his weeping friends that he at least would do all he could
for the comfort and protection of their father. There were servants,
too, who purposed remaining in the house for the present; and to these
was intrusted the task of consummating the sacrifice by setting fire
to what had been the happy home of three generations.

With a feeling akin to awe Ivan returned to the side of the now
solitary old man. He was almost ashamed to bring his personal
difficulties and perplexities before him. A reverent, tender compassion
for the silver hairs so soon to be steeped in blood filled his heart,
though even this was dominated and subdued by the over-mastering
enthusiasm that possessed him, rising higher and higher every moment.
Before that tide of passionate loyalty and patriotism all else gave
way. It seemed easy and natural--and oh, how beautiful!--to die for the
Czar and holy Russia.

Petrovitch, of his own accord, asked him about his plans and purposes.
He knew already what a commission Rostopchine had intrusted to the
young man; and Ivan, though thoroughly master in outline of the _rôle_
he had to play, was glad to consult his aged friend upon certain
questions of detail. After discussing the directions he had to give to
the criminals who were to be released from the various prisons to aid
in the terrible work, he spoke of the unaccountable obstinacy of the
Countess Wertsch, and of the difficulty in which it placed him.

But instead of expressing indignation at the old woman’s folly,
Petrovitch answered gently, “My boy, be patient with her. Remember all
her days have been spent here. To her, as to others, the ruin of holy
Moscow is like the fall of the sun from the noonday sky. Should the
need to remove her actually arise, God will show you what to do. But
wait. Where we stand now, hours do the work of years.”

“Dädushka, there is another thought in my mind of which I want to tell
you. I talked it over last night with my old friend Michael.--Ah, where
is Michael?” said Ivan, who in the excitement and confusion of the
last two hours had totally forgotten his companion. “No matter,” he
continued, “I shall find him by-and-by.--Say, dädushka, would it not
be a pity these infidel Frenchmen should enter the Kremlin without so
much as a musket-shot to bid them welcome?”

“But what would you do, my son? Remember the lives of Russians are
precious.”

“I should peril no life which would not be just as sorely perilled
elsewhere; but I think that, with the help of the workmen who are still
on the spot, and a few of the lads whom I know to be ready for any wild
work, I could give a fair account of some of Napoleon’s advanced guard.”

“Well, since Count Rostopchine has left the city, every man may do that
which is right in his own eyes. Have you arms?”

“Plenty; and I, as well as the other directors nominated by the count,
have his authority to distribute them as I see fit.--Ah, Pope Yefim, is
that you? So you have not left us yet.”

“Not yet, nor ever,” said the priest as he advanced and saluted first
his aged friend, then Ivan.

“I thought all the churchmen were gone already, or going to-day,”
observed Ivan.

“It may be so,” returned Pope Yefim, “but, whosoever goes, sorrow and
death remain.”

“_Remain!_” cried Ivan. “It is their carnival.”

“Well, then, may not one of God’s humblest ministers remain also, to
pray beside the sorrowful and to bury the dead?”

“My dear pope, the part you have chosen is noble, but most perilous.”

“I scarcely think so. All civilized nations respect Religion and her
ministers. I have heard that Napoleon said to one of our popes, who
bravely presented himself before him to plead for his flock, ‘You have
done well. Your “Bog” is the same as our “Dieu.”’”

“Whose altars the French have cast down, and whose worship they have
forsaken; therefore they shall not prosper,” said Petrovitch. He added
after a pause: “My friends, I am solitary now. Stay with me for a
little while. And if Prince Ivan will forget his worldly rank in the
presence of great Death, who makes all men equal, I pray you both to
partake with me of what may be to all of us our last meal upon earth.”

Ivan readily consented; and the attendants left in the house, who
watched carefully over their aged master, served a comfortable repast.
One of them informed Ivan that his servant was in their quarters,
awaiting his orders. Michael had been a deeply-moved spectator of the
parting between Petrovitch and his family. He had been seen coming out
of the hall with a sobbing child in his arms, a little great-grandson
of Petrovitch, whom he was trying to comfort. Afterwards he fraternized
with the attendants, who were mujiks, like himself, and to whose
inquiries he answered simply and briefly that he was Prince Ivan’s
servant.

The hours wore on. At last Ivan and Yefim were obliged to depart--Ivan
to his work in the city, the priest to one of the numerous services of
his Church.

Then for the first time Petrovitch knew himself indeed alone. To
darkness he was accustomed now, but the strange unwonted stillness
“ached round him like a strong disease and new.” No kindred voice would
break the silence ever again upon earth. Such had been his deliberate
choice, and he must bear it. But his strong heart sank lower and lower
yet, even to the very depths--those deepest depths of all, which only
strong hearts know how to sound.

“Out of the depths have I cried unto thee,” said one of old, uttering
the experience of ten thousand tried and sorrowful hearts. Very earnest
was the cry that went up that bitter hour from the soul of Petrovitch.
It was not his first cry to God; for the hand that had drawn a veil
over the eyes of his body had been gradually and gently opening the
eye of his soul to another and holier light. What though, at the best,
that light was dim and clouded? It was enough for his needs; and in
this hour of lonely anguish it shone out with greater clearness than
ever before. “I am a sinful man,” thought Feodor Petrovitch; “and now
the last hour of my long day of life has struck. I am going into the
presence of God. But there is the dear Bog Sūn,[27] and the cross, of
which Pope Yefim talks. I hope to be forgiven for the sake of what He
suffered there, and to see His face with joy in the resurrection.”

Then thoughts of the past chased each other quickly across his mind,
like clouds across a summer sky. All the events of his life seemed to
crowd upon him, and to pass in review before him “like a tale that is
told.” First came visions of his early years,--his village home, his
boyhood’s friends, his dear lord, Prince Pojarsky, with the face of
Ivan grown older; then his own struggles as a man,--his efforts to
secure an honourable place in the world, to gain wealth, character,
and the esteem of all. But these things flitted lightly by, and did
not stay. What came and stayed, fresh and vivid as though he saw them
even now, were the faces that he loved--faces over which the grave had
closed long ago. “Yesterday they seemed so far; to-day they are close
at hand. I shall see them before another sun has set,” he thought.
The wife of his youth came back, young and fair as on her bridal day.
Scarce younger and not less fair, so like that they seemed to mingle
into one sweet all-pervading presence, was that child of his heart, so
tenderly loved, so deeply mourned. As the Hebrew patriarch, casting a
retrospective glance over his long and weary pilgrimage, rested the
wistful gaze of his dying eye upon one chief unforgotten sorrow--“_As
for me_, when I came from Padan, Rachel died by me in the land of
Canaan”--so it was with Feodor Petrovitch. A passionate yearning swept
over him to see his daughter’s face, to hear her voice again.

By-and-by another change came. It was no longer faces that haunted
him, but voices--voices and footsteps. The little feet of his
grandchildren pattered around him; he heard their merry shouts, their
ringing laughter at their play. He felt tempted to call them; he almost
believed that if he called they would come to him. At last he heard
the footstep that he loved best--so plain, so near, that he thought he
must be dreaming. How strangely fancy must be cheating him! Surely that
_was_ Feodor--_his_ Feodor--trying in jest, as he was wont to do, to
steal upon him unawares and surprise him. Surely, as in the old happy
days, the boy had slipped off his lapti, and was stepping softly and
noiselessly upon the rugs that strewed the floor. Surely he was close
to him now--his breath was touching his very cheek. All unconsciously
the name escaped his lips, and he called aloud, “Feodor!”

“_Dädushka_” the voice he loved seemed to answer.

“O God!” sobbed the old man, for the first time completely unnerved,
“leave me my senses. Do not let me lose myself in vain delirious
dreams. Grant that I may give up my soul to thee in peace.”

“Dädushka, do not be afraid. It is I--it is your little Feodor.”
And now he knew it was no dream, for Feodor’s arms were around him,
Feodor’s face was buried in his breast.

“Did you think I could leave you, dädushka? Did you think I could
really go away with the others? Of course I pretended to go; but I
watched my opportunity, slipped off, and came back to you as soon as I
dared. I have been hiding ever since.”

“My child, my child, I must send you from me.”

“Dädushka, you must not, for I cannot go. Listen--I have sworn upon
bended knees before the picture of my saint that where you die there
will I die also.”

“My boy, I cannot have it--the old have so little life to give, the
young so much!”

“Dädushka, I will not live after you; for am I not yours altogether? My
mother is dead, and my father too. You have ever been to me instead
of both. I have nothing in the world but you. But what need of words?”
said the boy, drawing up his slender figure to its full height; “_I
have sworn_.”

Petrovitch could not see how his young face glowed, and his dark
eyes shone like lamps of fire; but he heard the tones of his voice,
which had in them the ring of a steadfast purpose, not proud or
self-confident, scarcely even passionate, only full of a quiet resolute
persuasion that he was doing something to which God had called him.

The old man’s reverence for the sanctity of an oath was rendered
stronger by a tinge of superstition. Moreover, he thought this
world--where apparently and for the present the infidel Nyemtzi were
victorious--not such a safe and happy home that true hearts need mourn
to leave it. Perhaps it would even be well for him to take his dearest
treasure with him to the better land, and bring Maria Petrovna the
little one she had intrusted to his care. Thus it was that when once
more Feodor whispered softly, “And I too, dädushka,--I am glad to die
for the Czar,” he only answered, “For our monarch, our country, and
our God. May he accept the sacrifice, and receive our souls into his
kingdom.”

Just then a servant hastily entered the room. “Father,” he said, in
great agitation, “a horseman is galloping through the streets, crying
aloud that the French are coming. Their standards may be seen, he says,
upon the Sparrow Hill. And, father,” he added, “the kibitka is ready,
according to your orders.”

“Then give me thine arm, Feodor,” said the old man rising. “Our hour
has come.”



CHAPTER XV.

THE MARTYR CITY.

  “Thou to thy rest art gone,
    High heart; and what are we,
  While o’er our heads the storm sweeps on,
    That we should weep for thee?”


The slow hours that had dragged their weary length since the evacuation
of the doomed city began, seemed a lifetime to Ivan. He almost felt
as if the suspense, the dull, hushed lull of expectation that was not
hope and yet was scarcely fear, would never end. But the end came at
length, and from that hour events followed each other with tremendous,
bewildering rapidity.

Ivan was in the Kremlin, distributing arms to the workmen whom he
found there, when some one cried that the French were fording the
Moskva (the Russian general, Miloradovitch, having broken down the
bridges). Ivan sprang to the nearest point of observation, and saw
some horsemen in fantastic uniforms, and bringing with them a couple
of guns, actually crossing the stream. A personage, splendidly attired
and surrounded by a brilliant staff, was directing their movements, and
apparently preparing to follow them. This, though Ivan knew it not, was
Murat, King of Naples, who was leading the French vanguard, thirsting
for glory and plunder, and already devouring with covetous eyes the
fabulous treasures of the Kremlin.

Ivan returned to his companions. “God has delivered them into our
hands,” he said. “We will let them cross the ford, and then--”

What followed may be learned from Murat’s own confession found in an
intercepted letter to his wife. “Never in my life,” wrote the King of
Naples, “was I in such wild danger.” First a sharp fire of musketry
saluted the advancing French; then the workmen and the populace sprang
upon them “with maniac fury,” and fought “like demons.” The two
pieces of cannon which Murat had with him, and which were loaded with
grape-shot, eventually decided the contest, but not until a colonel of
engineers and a large number of soldiers had fallen.

After the fray Michael saw Ivan, covered with dust and mortar, leaning
against a wall which had just been struck by a shot. “Are you hurt,
Barrinka?” he asked.

“No,” said Ivan, shaking the mortar from his clothes; “I am all right.
And you too, I hope? We must not throw away our lives, Michael; there
is too much still to be done. Come with me to the prison.”

“Anywhere with you, Barrinka. See, though I could not use a gun, I have
killed Nyemtzi.” And Michael triumphantly displayed a short sabre dyed
with blood.

“Where did you get that?” asked Ivan.

“Took it from one of themselves. That is French blood upon the blade,”
said Michael, with an air of intense satisfaction.

The Wertsch palace was directly in their way, and Ivan went in, saying,
with a determined air, “I will hear no more excuses from the countess
now. Go she must; her hour has come.”

Her hour had come--in a sense other and more solemn than Ivan meant.
The waiting-woman Maria met him in the saloon, and told him with many
tears that her mistress was dying. At the tidings that the French had
actually entered holy Moscow, so terrible was her agitation that she
had broken a blood-vessel, and was now beyond the reach of human
aid.[28] Ivan despatched a messenger for Pope Yefim--the only priest he
knew who had not left the city--while he himself hastened to the side
of the dying woman, to whom he thought his presence might be a comfort.

He was too late. The countess had sunk into a state of unconsciousness,
and only faint occasional sighs showed that life lingered still. As
he stood in the darkened room beside the motionless form, thoughts of
death, at once more solemn and more true than any that had come to him
before, stole into his heart. There was a sense of reality about this
slow sinking of the powers of nature which he had not felt in any of
the wild and stormy perils he had braved and was braving still. That
living soul, that personal mind and will, but yesterday so pronounced
and active, where was it? Whither was it going? Ivan did not know. With
him all the future was mist and fog--“a land of darkness, as darkness
itself.” And for a moment his strong heart almost quailed as there
swept over it those old yet ever new apprehensions and doubts, those

    “Blank misgivings of a creature
  Moving about in worlds not realized.”

But this mood passed as quickly as it came. He dared not linger; every
moment was of importance now. With one sad look of farewell he went his
way, and was soon absorbed in preparations for the great and terrible
sacrifice which was approaching so quickly.

He did not forget to send a messenger to the dwelling of Petrovitch to
learn the latest tidings of the heroic old man; and was told that he
had left the house, with his grandson Feodor, on the first intimation
of the approach of the French.

The first regiment of Frenchmen who advanced that day along the great
Smolensko road to the Gate of Triumph could have told Ivan something
more. Just outside the gate, under a green and spreading oak-tree, sat
a venerable old man, with hair and beard of silver whiteness; while
beside him stood a slight, tall stripling of some sixteen summers.
The boy held a gun in his hand, and as the French advanced, he took
deliberate aim at their leader, who was conspicuous on his stately
horse, his plumed cap waving in the wind. In a moment more the horse
was riderless and the plumes were trailing in the dust.

This was the signal for a dozen Frenchmen with drawn sabres to spring
at once upon the old man and the boy. “It is I whom you ought to kill,”
cried Petrovitch; “for it was I who armed him and bade him fire upon
you.” Feodor meanwhile took two pistols from his belt and discharged
them against his assailants; then drawing a poniard, he defended his
aged grandfather, until at last he fell overpowered by numbers and
covered with wounds. Nor did the snow-white hairs of the patriarch save
him from the same fate.

It is said that an hour afterwards Napoleon passed the spot attended
by his staff. With a look of horror he turned away and drew his horse
to the other side of the road, saying to those around him, “Such a
venerable old man! It was a cowardly murder.”

Night fell over the doomed city, and a full moon illumined its fair
minarets and domes with a robe of silver light. But to the French, as
they entered, it seemed like the deserted camp of the Syrians--“Behold,
there was no man there, neither voice of man,” except a few trembling
servants, who led the conquerors into the abandoned dwellings of their
lords, and showed them the rich furniture, the costly provisions, the
rare wines which they had left behind them. In some cases even the
unfinished embroidery of the ladies was found lying as it had fallen
from their hands.

Yet the city had not surrendered to the enemy. No one brought the keys
to Napoleon; no one entreated his mercy or deprecated his vengeance.
The strange silence touched even his haughty soul with surprise and
misgiving. In all Moscow there remained not one person with whom he
could communicate, not one of sufficient importance to answer his
inquiries or to receive and execute his commands. The only official he
could find was the director of the Foundling Hospital, who had refused
to desert his helpless little flock at the coming of the wolf.

The Bourse and the buildings around it were already wrapped in flames
when the French entered the city; but the immense extent of Moscow
prevented anything like a general alarm, and the first four-and-twenty
hours of the Occupation passed quietly away. On the following night,
however--a night much to be remembered in the annals of Russia, of
Europe, and of freedom, that of the 15th of September--the sad Russian
host on its weary march, and the immense crowd of weeping fugitives
that followed it, beheld a sight magnificent indeed but most terrible.
A sheet of flame, fanned by a tempestuous wind, grew and spread until
it wrapped the wide extent of the devoted city like a shroud of fire.
The entire horizon was illuminated. Three quarters of a league away men
could see to read by the lurid light. Nor did the dawn of day bring any
respite to the horror. The sun turned sickening from the scene, its
pale beams unable to contend with that fierce red glare. Another sun
arose, and yet another;--still the conflagration raged. It took six
awful days and nights to consume that holocaust, the grandest the world
has ever seen. But when at last the flames died slowly out, nine-tenths
of the ancient capital of the Czar were laid in ashes.



CHAPTER XVI.

ALEXANDER.

    “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a
    shield: but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts.”


Amidst the splendid environs of St. Petersburg, where Art has done all
in her power to atone for the sparing hand with which Nature has strewn
her bounties, there is a picturesque group of wooded islets embraced by
the clear blue waters of the Neva, and conspicuous for the splendour of
the “datcha,” or country houses, which adorn them. One of these islets,
called Kamenoi-Ostrov, or the stony island, contains an imperial
residence, a castle surrounded by gardens; and here, while Moscow
was still in flames, arrived Colonel Michaud, the eminent Sardinian
engineer, with a sad and heavy heart.[29]

He had travelled with the speed and almost in the style of a courier.
When he alighted from his unpretending vehicle at the castle gate, he
saw that the place had a deserted look; and only a single Cossack, who
happened to be on duty as sentinel, perceived his approach. Although
the Emperor was still here, even his very guards had been despatched
to the seat of war. Michaud briefly gave his name, and asked for an
audience.

He was introduced at once into the cabinet of the Czar. Alexander
looked worn and anxious; young as he was, a few threads of silver
showed themselves already in his chestnut hair. He saluted Michaud
courteously; but asked immediately, with a keen and searching look, “Do
you not bring me sad tidings, colonel?”

“Very sad, sire;--the evacuation of Moscow.”

“Have they given up my ancient capital without a struggle?”

“Sire, the environs of Moscow offer no position in which we could
hazard a battle with our inferior forces. The marshal[30] thought
he did well in preserving your army, whose loss without saving
Moscow would have been of the greatest consequence; and which, by
the reinforcements your Majesty has just procured, and which I met
everywhere along my road, will soon resume the offensive, and make the
French repent of invading Russia.”

“Has the enemy actually entered the city?”

“Yes, sire. At this moment Moscow is in ashes. I left it in flames.”
Here Michaud stopped abruptly, for the agony depicted on the Emperor’s
face, “the expression of his eyes,” completely unmanned him,--he could
say no more.

It was Alexander who, after a few bitter moments, and maintaining his
self-control with a strong effort, resumed the conversation.

“I see that God requires from us great sacrifices. I am ready to submit
to his will. But, Michaud, tell me frankly, what of the army? What do
my soldiers say upon seeing my ancient capital abandoned without a
struggle? Must not this have exercised a most disastrous influence upon
the spirit of the troops?”

“Sire, may I speak to you quite frankly, and as a loyal soldier?”

“Colonel, I have always required this frankness; now I entreat of
you to use it. Hide nothing from me: I desire absolutely to know the
truth.”

“Sire, I left all the army, from the generals to the meanest soldier,
possessed with one overpowering and terrible fear--”

“How? Whence these fears? Are my Russians overcome by the first
misfortune?” the Czar interrupted with emotion which even he could not
restrain, and which, as Michaud says, “altered for a moment the noble
calm of his fine features.”

“Never, sire!” resumed the colonel. “Their one fear is that your
Majesty, out of kindness of heart, may be persuaded to make peace.
They are burning to fight for you, and to prove their devotion by the
sacrifice of their lives.”

At these heroic words the light flashed once more across the clouded
face of Alexander. “You reassure me, colonel,” he said. “Well then,
return to the army. Say to our brave men, say to all my subjects
wherever you meet them, that if I had not a soldier left, I should put
myself at the head of my dear nobles, of my faithful peasants, and
expend to the uttermost the resources of my empire. They are greater
than my enemies think. But if it be the will of God that my dynasty
shall cease to reign upon the throne of my ancestors, then--after
having done all else that man can do--I will let my beard grow to
this,” said Alexander, placing his hand upon his breast, “and I will
eat potatoes like the lowest of my mujiks, rather than sign the
humiliation of my country and of my dear people, whose sacrifices for
my sake I appreciate.” Here his voice failed: it was easier to speak
of his own ruin than of the love of his subjects. Greatly moved, he
turned away from Michaud, and walked to the other end of the cabinet.
But he came back almost immediately with long and rapid strides,
and a face that had quickly changed from a deadly pallor to a fiery
flush. Pressing his hand on the arm of the officer, he said, “Colonel
Michaud, do not forget my words; perhaps one day we shall remember them
with pleasure. Napoleon or I--I or Napoleon--we can no longer reign
together. I know him now; he shall never deceive me again.”

“Sire,” cried the colonel joyfully, “your Majesty signs in this moment
the glory of the nation and the deliverance of Europe.”

His words were true--with this qualification, that the glory of Russia
and the deliverance of Europe were not the work of a moment, but of
long months of patient, heroic resolution. Alexander had not wished for
war--perhaps, indeed, he had striven too long to avert it. Personally,
in his earlier years, he admired Napoleon: the fact is undeniable,
though it has been the subject of much exaggeration. From the dawn of
manhood his favourite dream had been of a universal and durable peace,
and he imagined he saw in the victories of Napoleon so many steps to
its attainment. What are now called “Les idées Napoléoniques,” seem to
have captivated for a season this young, ardent, somewhat visionary
mind. But the veil once torn from his eyes by the insatiable ambition
and the repeated perfidies of the French usurper, thenceforward it was
between them war to the death.

When Napoleon suddenly poured his enormous hosts across the Niemen,
Alexander at once and emphatically announced his resolution, “I will
not sheathe the sword while a single foreigner remains in arms upon the
soil of Russia.” At that moment the eyes of all Europe were upon him,
and neither friend nor foe believed it possible that he could make good
his word.

“Napoleon,” said an astute observer, “thought he could terrify the
Emperor of Russia by his menaces without drawing a sword; he thought
he could make him lose his head by beginning the war suddenly in the
midst of negotiations; he thought he could end that war by a single
battle. But nothing happened that he thought.”[31] In a letter written
by him about this time, which was intercepted and brought to his rival,
were these words: “Alexander is a child. I will make him weep tears of
blood.” Alexander upon reading it remarked: “He said to me himself that
in war determination always carries the day. We shall see who has the
most determination, he or I.”

But the determination of the strongest heart might well have quailed
before the perils that beset the Czar in this solemn crisis of his own
and his people’s history. Six hundred and fifty thousand fighting men
had crossed his border under a leader hitherto invincible, whose name
was the terror of the civilized world. No man felt more keenly than
Alexander his own inferiority to Napoleon as a general. The bitter
memory of Austerlitz, his “unfortunate day,” never left him. Nor had
he any commander whose surpassing merit might inspire the army with
confidence. The excellent Barclay de Tolly had unfortunately become so
unpopular both with the army and the nation, that Alexander, though
with much regret, was obliged to remove him. Of his successor, the aged
Kutusov, he had no very high opinion; but when everything depended
upon the cordial support of his people, he was in a manner obliged to
consult their wishes.

Meanwhile the French were marching onwards into the very heart
of the country. The retreat of the Russians before them was no
doubt a master-stroke of policy, but to the sovereign of Russia
it was unutterably painful. From the thought of the sufferings of
his people,--the murders, the plundering, the desolation,--his
sensitive heart recoiled in horror. Nearer and nearer came the fiery
deluge, leaving a track of ruin behind it. Consternation seized his
counsellors, his court, his very family. The foreign envoys at St.
Petersburg packed up their effects in readiness for an immediate
flight. Even the Grand Duke Constantine made the hard task of the
brother he idolized harder still by assuring every one that the French
would inevitably conquer,--it was hopeless to resist them. He called
for peace, it was said, “as men call for water in a conflagration.”

To aggravate and crown all this misery, dejection, and terror, came the
overwhelming tidings of the destruction of Moscow. In some ways it was
a calamity more bitter, more crushing than that of St. Petersburg would
have been. While the one was the official capital, the other was the
real heart of the old Muscovite empire. Here the Czars were baptized,
were crowned, were buried; here were heaped all the treasures, were
concentrated all the glories of their past. It was their holy city,
their Jerusalem. No one knew as yet that its destruction had been a
signal act of patriotism and self-sacrifice; almost all the world,
including the Czar himself, believed that the French had consummated
their atrocities by setting fire to the city. Nor could he or others
foresee the future, or discern at once amidst the dust and smoke of
the conflict that the victory, in truth, was won. The final hour of
Napoleon’s triumph had struck, but the toll of fate was audible neither
to friend nor foe; and to Alexander and to Russia the day that saw the
fall of Moscow seemed the darkest that had ever dawned upon them.

In the heart of Alexander it left “a profound and bitter sorrow,” which
neither time, nor victory, nor glory could ever wholly obliterate.
Long afterwards, when conquered France offered the conqueror pecuniary
compensation, he answered with proud sadness, “Gold can never give
me Moscow back again.” Yet not for one moment did his courage fail
or his determination falter. His wife implored him with tears to
make peace, or to allow her to leave the empire. His mother, less
submissive, actually prepared to go. He gently dissuaded her from a
course so injurious to the interests of the country, and at last,
when she refused to listen, he said firmly, “I have entreated you
as a son; I now command you as your sovereign. You shall not go.”
Amidst the universal panic he alone stood firm. Naturally susceptible,
tender-hearted, perhaps even irresolute, the hour of trial found him
undaunted as the fiercest of his barbarian ancestors. Like the delicate
mainspring of some complicated machine which sustains a pressure that
would shatter a bar of iron, so this fine sensitive nature assumed the
best attributes of strength, and bore up triumphantly against a world
in arms.

Amongst the first words which he addressed to his people after the
fall of Moscow were these:--“An oppressed world looks to us for
encouragement, and can we shrink from the honourable mission? Let us
kiss the hand that selected us to act as the leader of nations in the
struggle for independence, and contend with courage and constancy to
obtain a durable peace, not only for ourselves, but for those unhappy
countries forced by the tyrant to fight in his quarrel: it is glorious,
it is worthy of a great nation, to _render good for ill_.” The
proclamation ends with a prayer:--“Almighty God, is the cause for which
we are battling not just? Cast an eye of compassion on our holy Church.
Preserve to this people its courage and constancy. Suffer it to triumph
over its adversary and thine. May it be in thy hand the instrument of
his destruction; and in delivering itself, redeem the independence of
nations and of kings.”

Here we recognize the secret of Alexander’s strength. He knew himself
in the hands of God; he and his people were instruments to do his will.

Some years later he said to a friend, “The conflagration of Moscow
illumined my soul.” It certainly marked a crisis in his spiritual
history; but with souls the sudden illumination of a tropical sunrise
is the rare exception, while light “increasing more and more unto the
perfect day” is the ordinary rule. From Alexander’s earliest years it
had seemed as if God was drawing his heart towards himself. While yet
a little child he would rise from his bed at night, and kneel unbidden
to ask forgiveness for some childish fault. Then and throughout his
life his tenderness of heart was remarkable. He “never willingly hurt
any living thing;” and so beautiful was the influence he exercised
over his wayward brother Constantine, that a plan for having the latter
brought up amongst Greeks as their future sovereign was abandoned,
because it was wisely concluded that no political advantage could
counterbalance the loss of Alexander’s example and companionship.

Unfortunately, the Empress Catherine had intrusted the education of
her favourite grandson to freethinkers like herself, of the school of
Voltaire and Diderot. He was early taught to look upon all forms of
religion as antiquated superstitions, useful, perhaps, for the vulgar,
but beneath the notice of the wise. His natural benevolence was not
discouraged, but justice and humanity were inculcated to the utter
exclusion of piety.

With such an education, and while yet a boy, he was launched upon the
troubled sea of one of the most dissolute, frivolous, and vicious
courts in Europe. He did not wholly escape contamination, but all the
dreams of his youth were noble and lofty. To be the benefactor of
his kind, to free the oppressed--such were the visions he nursed in
solitude or breathed into the ear of a sympathizing friend during the
long walks in which he delighted. The voice of God was never quite
silent in his heart. He himself says that with regard to religion,
“things were at the court of St. Petersburg very much as everywhere
else--many words, but little meaning; many outward practices, but the
holy essence of Christianity was hidden from our eyes. I felt the void
in my soul, and a vague presentiment accompanied me everywhere. I
went--I came--I sought to distract my thoughts.”

The void within of which he spoke was deepened by sorrow. During the
reign of his father, who disliked and dreaded him as a rival, his
position was both difficult and painful. Personally, he was submissive
and patient; but he was brave in interceding for the oppressed, and in
using for the good of others any measure of authority that was allowed
him. After four years, the tragedy which terminated the reign of the
unfortunate Paul placed the imperial crown upon the head of Alexander,
but cast a shadow over his life which never wholly passed away. To
his latest hour, in every period of sorrow or despondency, “the agony
returned.” It was not exactly remorse, for he was guiltless; but it
was poignant grief and horror. It deepened that inherited tendency to
morbid gloom and depression which perhaps, even amidst the happiest
surroundings, might have developed as years went by.

In one of these sorrowful moods he confessed his dejection to an
intimate friend, hinting that he envied him his unfailing cheerfulness.
Prince Galitzin told him in reply that he had found in the Bible the
source of true comfort and happiness. The story was a remarkable one.
Early in his reign Alexander nominated Galitzin “Minister of Public
Worship.” “But I know nothing about religion,” objected the Prince,
who, like his master, had been educated in an atmosphere of French
infidelity. “That is a point in your favour,” replied the philosophic
Czar. “It will secure your impartiality. You have only to hold the
balance even, and do justice to every one.” But Galitzin, not quite
satisfied, asked Archbishop Plato to recommend him some book which
would give him a knowledge of religion. The venerable metropolitan
advised him to read the Bible; which he did, at first very reluctantly,
afterwards with ever deepening interest and profit.

Alexander determined to follow the example of his friend, and next day
surprised the Empress Elizabeth by asking her to lend him a Bible.
She gave him a French copy of the Sacred Word--De Sacy’s translation,
printed at Cologne--and it became thenceforward his inseparable
companion. For a long time he was haunted by sceptical doubts; but
he persevered in his study, and the shadows that obscured his soul
gradually and slowly passed away.

Notwithstanding the general unbelief and indifference of the higher
classes, there were at that time in the Russian court a few “devout
and honourable women,” who were earnestly seeking light from above.
To these the Czar was an object of interest, as “not far from the
kingdom of heaven.” When the French war was impending, and the burden
of anxiety from which few hearts were free was known to weigh most
heavily upon his, a message, which proved to be indeed from God,
came to him through one of them. It was the night before he started
for Vilna, and, according to his usual custom, he was spending it
in transacting business, content to find what sleep he could in his
open carriage while dashing at headlong speed through the country. As
he was diligently arranging his papers, a lady entered his cabinet
unannounced, and looking up in great surprise he recognized the wife
of his Grand Marshal, the Countess Tolstoi. She apologized for her
unseasonable visit, and put a paper into his hand, which she entreated
him to read, saying he would find true comfort there. His unfailing
courtesy led him to accept it and thank her; and she withdrew. He put
the paper in his pocket, resumed his occupation, and thought no more
of it until, after two days and nights of rapid travel, he changed his
clothes for the first time. Upon removing his coat he found it, and saw
that it was a copy of the ninety-first psalm. He lay down; but, worn
out with fatigue, was unable to sleep, so he called his chaplain and
requested him to read to him. Strangely enough, the portion which the
priest selected was that very psalm, and the Czar was greatly impressed
by the coincidence.[32] The glorious words of promise, so exactly
suited to his need, were received with simple faith. From that day
forward he said of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress: my God;
in him will I trust.”

His study of the Divine Word became more earnest and systematic: from
this period until the end of his life he read three chapters daily,
even under the most difficult circumstances, “when the cannon were
thundering about his tent.” He prayed constantly, “using no form,”
as he said himself, “but the words which God’s Spirit taught him,
according to his needs.” And he sought to conform his conduct to the
will of God, so far as he understood it.

This was not done without a struggle. His life had not been blameless,
and much once dear had to be surrendered. But henceforward his court
became a model of purity; and moreover his fear of God showed itself in
an increase of gentleness towards man. He made great efforts to control
his naturally passionate temper; and if, after this period, he was
betrayed into a hasty expression, he would frankly apologize, not only
to a member of his suite, but even to the humblest of his attendants.

He had always known that his enormous power was intrusted to him for
the good of others, not for his own happiness or glory. “Fifty millions
of men are worth more than one man,” had been an axiom with him from
the beginning of his reign. But now he knew himself the steward of God,
responsible to _him_ for its exercise. “You should be in my place,”
he said to a friend, “to understand what is the responsibility of a
sovereign, and what I feel when I reflect that one day I must render an
account of the life of every one of my soldiers.”

Amongst the commands of Christ which impressed him most deeply were
these: “Love your enemies: do good to them that hate you.” He learned
to forgive personal injuries, “which in other reigns would have
drawn down thunder.” One instance amongst many may be given. Admiral
Tchichagof, one of his ministers, quarrelled with his colleagues, and
at length withdrew to Paris, where he said many bitter and injurious
things about the Czar, which were all reported to him, and probably
exaggerated. Just before the outbreak of the war, Tchichagof’s wife
died, and, in accordance with her last request, he brought her body to
St. Petersburg for interment. He wrote to the Czar to inform him of his
return and its reason; and Alexander replied by an autograph letter,
which Tchichagof showed in confidence to his friend De Maistre. “What
a letter!” wrote the Sardinian ambassador to his sovereign. “The most
tender and most delicate friend could not have written otherwise.”
And he said to Tchichagof, as he handed back the precious paper, “You
ought to die for the prince who wrote you that letter.” An interview
followed, in which the reconciliation was cemented. “I know what you
have said of me,” said Alexander, “but I attribute all to a good
motive.” Need it be added that henceforward Tchichagof served him
faithfully?

But what of the French--of Napoleon? What of his desolated country, his
murdered subjects, his fair and favourite city laid in ashes? Could
these things be forgiven? Or is it true, as many would tell us, that
the precepts of Christ are admirably suited for women and children,
perhaps, at the utmost, for men in their private relations each with
the other, but a nullity or a failure when applied to larger scenes
and interests, utterly ineffectual to guide and control the statesman
in his cabinet or the monarch on his throne? We shall see how far the
story of Alexander answers this question.

For two or three years he might truly have been said to “abide under
the shadow of the Almighty,” although not as yet did he “dwell in the
secret place of the most High.” He trusted in God, he sought to obey
Christ, long before he knew him as the Saviour upon whom his sins were
laid. Again, to use his own words, “I did not arrive there in a moment.
Believe me, the path by which I was conducted led me across many a
conflict, many a doubt.”

The light that shone within him was like the slow dawn of a Northern
day--

  “An Arctic day that will not see
  A sunset till its summer’s gone.”

Those were indeed the beams of the sun which flooded the whole horizon,
gladdening the heart of every living thing; but the sun itself was
still unseen, because as yet unrisen. Its light was there; its glory
was yet to come.



CHAPTER XVII.

IN THE CAMP.

  “Our souls are parched with agonizing thirst,
  Which must be quenched though death were in the draught:
  We must have vengeance.”


One evening towards the end of October, and just when the first snow of
the year was beginning to fall, Ivan Pojarsky and Michael Ivanovitch
entered the head-quarters of the Russian army at Tarovtino. Their fleet
Arabian horses were flecked with foam, for they had traversed the ten
leagues which divided them from Moscow without once drawing rein. As
they dashed along, they shouted to all whom they passed, “Napoleon has
quitted Moscow!” and answering “houras” and cries of joy cheered them
on their way.

“Bring us at once to Count Rostopchine,” said Ivan to the soldiers who
crowded around them. “He is here, is he not?”

“He is here, gospodin; but the Marshal--”

“With all due respect to the dignity of his Highness the
General-in-Chief, our business is with the Count, brothers,” returned
Ivan.

He was accordingly conducted to the presence of Rostopchine, who, after
a lengthened interview, dismissed him to seek rest and refreshment,
desiring him to return early in the morning.

Rostopchine’s aide-de-camp offered his hospitality, and Ivan thanked
him courteously, but inquired whether Captain Adrian Wertsch, of the
Moscow militia, was not then in the camp. The aide-de-camp answered
in the affirmative, and agreed to bring Ivan to his tent, though very
reluctantly; for he was sorry to lose the honour and pleasure of
entertaining one who could give him so many interesting details about
the French occupation of Moscow.

Adrian was standing outside his tent when Ivan approached, and he
greeted him with joyful astonishment, as one risen from the dead.

“I did not think to see your face again,” he said.

“Life is still left me,” returned Ivan in a broken voice; for, after so
many horrors, the sight of a familiar face proved at the moment almost
more than he could bear.

“Come in,” said Adrian, drawing his arm affectionately within his own.
“A good draught of champagne is what you want now.”

“Will you tell your orderly to take care of my friend Michael
Ivanovitch? He has behaved like a hero.”

“Certainly.”

Adrian gave a few rapid directions, then led Ivan into his tent, and
before he would listen to a word, poured for him a sparkling goblet of
the beverage which he considered a panacea for all the ills, mental and
bodily, of the noble, as vodka was for those of the mujik.

Ivan needed the stimulant, for he was worn out with fatigue and
excitement. He said, as he finished the draught, “You got my letter,
Adrian?”

“Yes. My poor mother!”

“No one was to blame. We did all we could, but nothing would induce her
to leave the old home; and when the French entered Moscow, the shock
was more than she could bear. We buried her honourably, by the side of
her husband, in the Church of St. Eustacius. Pope Yefim performed the
funeral services.”

“That was nobly done, Ivan, and I thank you most heartily.--By the way,
your friend Pope Yefim has made himself famous.”

“How? By remaining in the city?”

“By daring to celebrate, with a solemn service, the Czar’s coronation
day, under the very beard of Napoleon.[33] We have all heard of it.”

“He never supposed he was doing anything extraordinary. The Prior of
the Dominican Monastery, whom he consulted, agreed that he was right.
I can tell you, Adrian, that good man himself was by no means in love
with his countrymen. Though his religion is their own, and he kept his
church open the whole time of the Occupation, scarcely a Frenchman
darkened its doors, except a few officers of noble birth belonging to
the old _régime_. As a rule, the soldiers of Napoleon are infidels.
Sometimes, out of curiosity, they would stray into our churches. On
the coronation day, a poor young fellow, a mere lad, stole into Pope
Yefim’s church, and was near paying dearly for his rashness; for a
party of mujiks set upon him after the service, taking him for a spy.
They might have killed him; but--strangest chance of all--my friend
Michael, whose thoughts by day and dreams by night are only of slaying
Nyemtzi, interposed to save this one, saying he knew him, and had
received a kindness at his hands. I spoke to the youth, and he told
me he had been religiously brought up, and said the very sound of a
church-bell, and the sight of men kneeling in prayer, seemed to do him
good, though he could not understand a word of the service.”

“A queer taste,” said Adrian, shrugging his shoulders. Then to his
orderly, who had just entered the tent, “Bring us the best supper you
can get, and more champagne.”

“Adrian,” asked Ivan, “where is Leon?”

Adrian’s face assumed a sorrowful expression. “Gone to our mother,” he
answered. “He was wounded at Borodino, though not severely. He insisted
upon going out again, and met his death in a skirmish ten days ago.”

Ivan felt and showed real sorrow. Of the two companions of his youth,
Leon had been his favourite, and he could not hear unmoved the tidings
of his death. “Death--death everywhere,” he murmured sadly.

“Come, my friend,” said Adrian kindly, “you must not give way. It is
only the fate of war. You have been so long in that horrible den of a
city that your nerves are shattered. Take some more wine.”

“That horrible den!” Ivan repeated. “A lair of wild beasts! Such it
has been indeed. The count, who is as hard as _this_,” laying his hand
upon Adrian’s iron camp-bedstead, “has been asking me for reports and
descriptions. I cannot describe, I can scarcely even report facts.
Picture to yourself nine-tenths of the town in ashes--or in charred
blackened ruins--with thousands of the wretched inhabitants, who could
not, or did not, make good their escape, wandering about homeless and
starving, filling the air with their lamentations. Then think of the
French, like a host of demons turned loose upon their prey, ransacking
the smoking ruins in search of plunder. I have seen the gold-laced
uniform of the general and the woollen jacket of the private side by
side, contending for the spoils of our desolated homes; while all the
dangerous classes, all the thieves and ruffians who are to be found
amongst the scum of the populace in every great city, joined them in
the horrible work and added to the confusion and misery.”

“Did not Napoleon shoot or hang a great number of our people?”

“If you call three hundred a great number; so many at least he executed
as incendiaries--and indeed most of them were taken in the act. They
died in silence, without asking for mercy, and without accusing any
one as having instigated them to the deed.”

“How did _you_ escape?” asked Adrian.

“There was little difficulty in escaping. It was easy enough to hide in
the ruins or in the cellars, many of which had been left well stocked
with provisions when the city was abandoned. But have you heard about
our wounded men?” he asked, with a return of animation, and even of
something like cheerfulness.

“No; I have heard nothing.”

“The count was obliged to leave two thousand men, who were too
desperately wounded to bear removal, concealed in the cellars of the
city. Here they managed to drag on their lives, though in a state of
extreme wretchedness. We found them out, and used to bring them food
and other comforts. That work was even more hazardous than setting the
city on fire; for discovery would have cost, not our lives alone, but
theirs. Napoleon’s last act before he left the city was to order ten
sick men, found in a cellar, to be shot.”

“Wretch!” cried Adrian, clenching his hand.

“The half has not been told you, or you would find no name to call him
by,” returned Ivan fiercely. “He has defiled our holiest sanctuaries;
he has torn open our imperial tombs; he has stabled his horses in the
church where our Czar was crowned; he has carried everything away upon
which he could lay his sacrilegious hands, even to the cross upon the
tower of Ivan Veliki, and the Tartar banners which hung as trophies in
the Arsenal. Well may Count Rostopchine curse him, as only he knows how
to curse. But those wounded--we contrived somehow to keep them alive;
and I think a goodly number may be saved yet. I asked the count not to
lose an hour in sending them succour.”

“I hope he has had the grace to do justice to your courage and your
exertions.”

“He has condescended to approve my conduct,” said Ivan with modest
satisfaction. “And now he offers me three things, by way of recompense,
as he is pleased to say. If I choose to return with him to the city,
he will give me an appointment in the civil service, with the rank
of titular counsellor, which, as you know, answers to that of senior
captain in the army.”[34]

“Surely you will not do that! You could not sheathe your sword _now_,”
Adrian exclaimed.

“So much I said to the count; and he answered that, if I pleased, he
would request the marshal to put me on his staff.”

“Capital! What more could you desire?”

“He made another proposal--to send me to the Czar with the report of
what I had seen and done.”

“And which did you accept?”

“_The last_,” said Ivan. At that moment a sound, dull, prolonged, and
loud, like distant thunder, smote upon their ears. Again it came, and
yet again, making the air tremble around them and the earth shake
beneath their feet. “What is that?” cried Ivan.

“Not musketry or cannon,” said Adrian, with a look of alarm and
perplexity. “We are tolerably familiar with those sounds. _This_ is
different.”

“More like an explosion--if so, a terrible one. Perhaps a great powder
magazine. But where?” mused Ivan.

Adrian hurried out in search of information, and soon returned to tell
his friend that the noise evidently came from the direction of Moscow.
More than that no one knew.

Morning brought the explanation. Ivan was still enjoying the profound
slumber of youth and weariness, when a brother officer of Adrian’s
rushed into the tent. “The Kremlin is destroyed!” he cried. “That demon
Napoleon had it undermined before he left, and last night it was blown
into fragments!”

“The Kremlin?--Impossible!” cried Adrian, who was dressing for parade.

“Too possible, and too true,” said his informant. “A messenger from
the city has just arrived to bring the tidings to the marshal and the
count.”

Meanwhile Ivan, who had been suddenly awakened, started up in horror,
exclaiming, “The Czar! oh, what will it be to _him_?”

“Blown into fragments, did you say?” returned Adrian. “Utterly
impossible! The masonry is as solid as the rocks beneath our feet, and
the walls of the arsenal are three yards in thickness.”

“Those walls are now level with the ground,” said the officer; “and the
palace--the Czar’s ancient palace--is in ruins.”

Ivan uttered a bitter cry, and Adrian asked breathlessly, “What of the
churches?”

“One of them, I have not heard which, is thrown down. The mines were
fired by slow-consuming fusees; and our men, who arrived just before
the messenger left, were beginning a perilous search for powder, to
prevent further mischief, if they could.”

“But,” said Ivan, who had risen now,--“but there must be a mistake
somewhere; for the French kept their own sick and wounded in the
Kremlin, and I happen to know that those unfit to be moved were still
there when I left the city. That Napoleon could have exposed _them_ to
a horrible death is simply inconceivable.”

“Yet too true,” the officer answered. “He has sacrificed his own
helpless followers to his revenge and hatred. For this barbarous deed
can have had no other motive. There was nothing to be gained by it.”

Adrian laid his hand upon Ivan’s shoulder. “Do not go to St
Petersburg,” he said. “Stay with us, and fight. We will pay this
Napoleon double for all his atrocities.”

“I wish his neck were _there_,” said Adrian’s comrade, grinding the
earth with his strong heel. “But I would not kill him,” he added, after
a pause. “No. I would drag him in chains to the feet of the Czar, and
let _him_ kill him with his own hand.”

“I think,” said Ivan slowly and with deliberation,--“I think every
Russian, from the Czar himself down to the lowest mujik, should swear a
solemn oath not to sheathe the sword until we have taken such vengeance
upon Napoleon and his Frenchmen as the world has never yet seen.”

“So be it,” said Michael, who came in while he was speaking. “I, a
mujik, will be the first to swear.--Barrinka, what is the name of
Napoleon’s great city, where he has his palace and all his treasures?
Suppose the Czar were to make a blaze of _that_ some day! It may be.
God is just!”



CHAPTER XVIII.

TWO IMPORTANT INTERVIEWS.

  “Nous verrons ce qui réussira le mieux, de se faire aimer ou de se
      faire craindre.”

            _Words of the Emperor Alexander._


When Ivan waited upon Count Rostopchine that morning, he found his
excellency in a very bad humour. The destruction of the Kremlin was
perhaps enough to account for this; but there may have been in addition
an altercation with Marshal Kutusov--not a very rare occurrence, for
between the general-in-chief of the army and the governor of Moscow
there was no friendship. Ivan found the count surrounded by the members
of his suite, to whom he was giving directions in preparation for an
immediate return to the city.

“Do you come with us, Ivan Ivanovitch?” he asked abruptly, and of
course in Russian, the only language he would tolerate in his presence,
although he himself spoke and wrote French with elegance and precision.

Ivan saluted him with due respect, but answered in the negative.

“Ah! then I shall have the trouble of speaking to the marshal about
you,” returned the count, with an air of annoyance, at which Ivan
was scarcely surprised, for Rostopchine’s manner on the preceding
evening had made him fully aware that he desired to retain him in
his own service. So he answered deferentially, “Instead of imposing
that trouble upon your excellency, I shall avail myself of the third
proposal you did me the honour to make, and very humbly entreat of you
to intrust me with despatches for his Imperial Majesty.”

Ivan was utterly amazed at the count’s reception of this request.
“Then you are as great a fool as I took you for the first day I saw
your face. And,” added Rostopchine, with one of his resounding Russian
oaths, “you could not possibly be a greater!”

Such an address from such a personage, and in the presence of a score
of witnesses, might well have disconcerted an older man than Ivan,
especially as he could not in the least imagine the cause of it. But
to every one’s astonishment he stood his ground, and answered with the
utmost coolness and self-possession, “Your excellency’s opinion may be
correct, but it must have some better foundation than my choosing to
embrace an offer which you yourself condescended to make to me last
night.”

“He sees no difference between last night and this morning,” remarked
Rostopchine, turning to his officers, but speaking in a voice quite
loud enough for Ivan to hear. “He is in a mighty hurry to go and
tell the Czar that the Kremlin is destroyed.” Then addressing Ivan
directly--“I understand you perfectly, young gentleman: you prefer the
air of a court to that of a camp, and had rather dangle your feet in
the Czar’s ante-chamber than use your hands fighting the French.”

If Ivan had not just been performing most hazardous services with
signal intrepidity, he might have been angry. But he knew that no one
present doubted his courage for an instant, Rostopchine perhaps least
of all. So he only bowed, and answered with extreme _sang-froid_, “That
being the case, when shall I have the honour of waiting upon your
excellency to receive your commands for St. Petersburg?”

“I will send them to you in half-an-hour; you need not show your face
here again.”[35]

Ivan returned to the tent of his friend with, strange to say, a more
cheerful air than when he left it. He seemed to be rather exhilarated
than otherwise by his encounter. “Every one knows the count’s temper,”
he said, after detailing the adventure. “I was not going to lose the
reward of all I have passed through during the last six weeks for a
few rough words. Only for the hope of seeing the face of my Czar, and
telling him I tried to serve him faithfully, I should once and again
have lain down to die.”

“It is well known,” answered Adrian, “that Count Rostopchine does not
love the Czar--but he loves Russia.” Then, to Ivan’s surprise, Adrian
told him that he himself hoped to be the companion of his rapid journey
to St. Petersburg. His mother’s death had left the pecuniary affairs
of the Wertsch family in confusion, and of course the intervention
of “government” was necessary for their arrangement. Amongst other
matters, the term of years for which one of their estates had been
granted by the crown was now expired, and a new grant would have to be
solicited. While Ivan was engaged with the count, Adrian had asked for
and obtained a short leave of absence, that he might take advantage of
his friend’s telega; for Ivan, as one travelling upon public business,
would be authorized to require, at every post-house, the swiftest
horses that could be obtained.

This explanation had not long been finished, when a fine young
man, the son of Rostopchine, entered the tent. He brought Ivan his
father’s letter to the Czar, and the other documents necessary for
his journey. Then he offered him a supply of money, which Ivan, under
the circumstances, was glad to be able to decline--the contents of a
purse of ducats, found accidentally in one of the abandoned palaces
of Moscow, sufficing for his present needs. Lastly, young Rostopchine
lingered to say, “My father desires me to tell you that he has
mentioned you to the Czar in very handsome terms, though not more so
than you have fully deserved.”

Ivan was touched by this magnanimity, which was quite in keeping with
the character of the fiery and prejudiced but honest and generous old
Muscovite. He answered gratefully: “I beg of you to present my very
humble thanks to his excellency, and to assure him I shall never forget
the trust he has reposed in me.”

Ivan, Adrian, and Michael were soon seated in a rough, light telega and
dashing across the country, under the guidance of a practised driver,
at a speed that almost anticipated the age of railways. Until they
passed beyond the theatre of war, they had a guard of flying Cossacks;
after that, they were left to their own resources. They travelled day
and night--Ivan anxious and rather melancholy, Adrian enlivening their
way with his conversation. As they were drawing near their journey’s
end, he took occasion, from some remark of Ivan’s, to explain to him
the views of General Kutusov with regard to the war. “Russia, says the
marshal, is making herself the champion and the martyr of Europe; and
scanty thanks will Europe give her for the same when once the common
danger is over. These English, Germans, and Swedes are glad enough to
see us shedding our best blood to overthrow the despotism of Napoleon
and secure the general freedom; but when the work is done, which of
them will have the grace to be grateful to us? Rather will they envy us
the very glory we acquired in fighting their battles. Hence the marshal
would not be at all averse to an honourable peace, if such could be
had; and they say the Czar has had to interfere more than once to
prevent his opening negotiations with the enemy--”

“Of which the enemy would be only too glad,” said Ivan. “Our friend
Yakovlef, who, as you are aware, was detained in Moscow by the illness
of his uncle, was taken before Napoleon, who cajoled and threatened
him by turns to try and induce him to bring a letter from him to the
Czar. But young Yakovlef stood firm; in fact, he told Napoleon he could
not presume so far, if his life depended upon it. The Czar’s refusal
to receive any proposition whatsoever from the French is absolute. But
surely I see buildings in the distance, and smoke.--Isvostchik, can
this be St. Petersburg?”

“Yes, gospodin, this is St. Petersburg.” Then, being himself a native
of Moscow, “But it is _not_ Moscow the holy. Ah! Moscow the holy will
be never more what she was in the old days.”

None of the party, except the driver, had seen the new capital before.
Adrian was full of natural curiosity and interest in all that met their
view as they drove along; while Michael was busy wondering whether the
Nyemtzi would come here also, what sort of defence could be made if
they did, and whether a great many of them would be killed. But Ivan
grew silent and absorbed, and looked very pale. “I verily believe,”
said Adrian, turning to him suddenly, “that you are seeing the horrors
of Moscow over again.”

“No,” returned Ivan--“no. I was not thinking just then of what I have
seen, but of what I am about to see.”

“You are about to see the thing you have been longing for through all
your toils and perils. Rouse yourself, man! Of what are you afraid?”

“Of the face of Majesty,” said Ivan to himself; though to Adrian he
only answered, with a rather nervous laugh, “First interviews are
trying.” Yet he knew that this was not, for him, a first interview with
his sovereign. He felt beneath his doublet for the precious piece of
gold, the cherished souvenir of his boyhood, as if to assure himself
that the great Emperor, into whose presence he was going, was really
the kind young boyar who had promised that he should serve him one day.

“Dear Barrinka,” pleaded Michael, “do not forget to tell our lord the
Czar that a mujik who has lost one hand desires his leave to fight
for him, and that he will serve him _so_ faithfully. At the camp,” he
added, “they laughed at me, and told me I would never make a soldier.
But the Czar will listen to _you_.”

Ivan smiled doubtfully. In his heart he wished that the poor mujik’s
child-like idea of his sovereign had been his own also. Then he saw
Michael take out his beloved picture, and, fastening it before him on
the telega, address to it his prayers for the success of his young
lord’s mission. “The saint and the Czar are equally real to him,”
thought Ivan, “and he would address either with equal reverence and
equal confidence.”

His reverie was interrupted by the voice of the isvostchik. “This is
the square of the Admiralty, and there is the great Czar Peter,” said
he, as he pointed out the celebrated equestrian statue where the father
of modern Russia perpetually climbs the rock and treads the serpent
beneath his horse’s hoofs.

They drove to an inn, where Ivan merely delayed to make those changes
in his dress which etiquette imperatively demanded, and then, leaving
his companions to await his return, took his despatches to the Winter
Palace. There he was fortunate enough to find the Emperor, who had just
returned from Kamenoi-Ostrov.

In less than two hours Ivan came back to the inn. Michael had gone out
with the isvostchik, but Adrian was waiting for him, and met him with
an air of some anxiety. “Is it well?” he asked briefly.

“Well?--oh yes, _very_ well,” Ivan answered. He spoke in an abstracted
voice, but there was a new light in his eyes, and his face was flushed
and excited.

“I cannot make you out,” said Adrian, looking at him with surprise and
curiosity. “If it were possible, I should say that you look at once ten
years older and ten years younger than you did two hours ago.”

“Two hours! It ought to be ten years, if all--O Adrian!” he broke out
suddenly, and with uncontrollable emotion, “the half was not told me!
He is grand--beautiful! There is only one thing more I want now--_to
die for him_.”

The sorrows of the last two months had done somewhat to deepen the
slight nature of Adrian. He was no longer disposed to scoff at
everything. “I guessed ‘le séduisant,’ as Czernichef calls him, would
fascinate you,” he said. “But, now you _have_ returned, I will own that
I wished you better news to bring him than that of the destruction of
the Kremlin. Evil tidings do not always insure their bearer a good
reception.”

“I think he was prepared,” Ivan answered. “At all events he betrayed
no emotion; only saying very calmly, ‘It is the will of God!’ I think
he grew pale, but even of that I cannot speak certainly, as at the
beginning of our interview I scarcely dared to raise my eyes to his
face. But all changed when he spoke of Moscow, and questioned me about
the things I had witnessed there during the Occupation. I could see
that much was new to him, and even startling, and that my account of
the conflagration moved him deeply. Then all fear passed from me, save
the fear of giving pain to him. His intense gaze seemed to draw the
whole truth from my lips, even in spite of my will; but it was hard to
tell of the burnings and plunderings, and of the starved, homeless,
despairing people. Once or twice my voice dropped so low that he had to
ask me to repeat my words; for you know he is somewhat deaf. But when I
told him of the wounded men whom we found in the cellars and tried to
keep alive, his face lighted up, and he thanked me--yes, thanked _me_”
Ivan repeated, raising his head proudly; though almost immediately he
allowed it to sink again, while a vivid flush passed over his features.

“Tell me the rest,” said Adrian eagerly.

Ivan struggled with some feeling which he would not, perhaps could
not express. “It is almost too sacred,” he said at last. “But I will
tell you; only, never speak to me of it again. Even now I look back
upon what I said with amazement. Evidently Count Rostopchine has been
generous, and has spoken highly of my services in his letter. His
Majesty observed that heroism and fidelity appear to be hereditary in
my family; and asked me whether I was not the representative of the
great Prince Pojarsky, the deliverer of Moscow. I answered, ‘Sire, I
am his descendant; I know not whether I am his representative.’ He
inquired my meaning, and thus it came to pass that I talked to him
about my father.”

“About your father!” Adrian repeated in great astonishment. “You amaze
me! You and I have lived together for six years, and never have I heard
you so much as name him.”

“No; never to any one around me--scarcely even to dear old Petrovitch.
Yet to my sovereign, in one hour, the whole secret of my life flashed
out, I know not how. I told all;--how ever since I heard the story of
my birth in early boyhood, I dreamed of that exiled father, dwelling
forlorn and solitary in the frozen desert of Siberia; how I longed to
seek him out and comfort him, and even dared to cherish the hope that
one day I might win his pardon and restore him to his home. But, even
as I spoke thus, a sudden overwhelming sense of the presence in which
I stood swept over me. I was confounded, struck dumb, paralyzed with
the sense of my own boldness. At last I stammered, by way of excuse, ‘I
implore of your Majesty to pardon me; you can understand how the sad
fate of a father must shadow the life of a son!’”

Adrian uttered a groan of dismay. “Most luckless of men!” he cried.
“Never in all your days did you make a blunder until that moment. My
friend Ivan, it is clear you are no courtier; you may as well give up
the game at once and come back to the camp with me.”

“Why so?” asked Ivan, terribly disconcerted. “What have I said amiss? I
don’t understand--”

“You don’t understand! Have you forgotten the fate of the Czar Paul,
and the unfortunate circumstances under which his majesty began his
reign?”

“Utterly!” cried the horror-stricken Ivan, growing red and pale by
turns. “Oh, what have I done?--I never dreamed of any sorrow save my
own.” But after a long pause he resumed, with a look of returning
composure: “I think he did not misunderstand me. It is true I saw a
look of pain pass across his face, and I wondered at it for a moment.
But his manner to me grew even gentler than before. He asked me what
my father’s supposed crime had been, and I told him frankly. Then he
said, ‘He shall be sought out and restored to you, if he be not already
beyond our reach;’ and he added, ‘Beyond the reach of God he cannot
be. Is it not so?’ I thought he waited for an answer, and I said,
‘Yes, sire.’ That was nearly the end. He told me I should receive a
communication to-morrow through the Governor of St. Petersburg, General
Soltikoff. Then I kissed his hand; and the gentleman-in-waiting, who
accompanied me to the gate of the palace, asked for my address. Now,
Adrian, you know as much as I can tell you. But,” he added to himself,
“not _all_; the look, the tone, the manner, these are mine, mine
only. These it is that give me the precious sense that I myself--Ivan
Ivanovitch Pojarsky--am recognized, thought of, cared for.”



CHAPTER XIX.

THE CHEVALIER GUARD.

  “I sang the joyful pæan clear,
  And, sitting, burnished without fear
  The brand, the buckler, and the spear--

  “Waiting to strive a happy strife,
  To war with falsehood to the knife,
  And not to lose the good of life.”


The following morning brought Ivan a request, equivalent of course to
a command, that he would wait upon General Soltikoff. The Governor
of St. Petersburg was a veteran approaching his eightieth year, and
much and deservedly respected both by the sovereign and by the people.
He received Ivan with remarkable courtesy. Although the ante-chamber
was nearly full of persons awaiting an audience, and some of them
were evidently of high rank, he sent for him almost immediately, and
introduced him to his son and to others who were with him in the
cabinet as a young nobleman who had acted a most heroic part during
the Occupation of Moscow. Then addressing Ivan himself, he said, “The
Emperor has commended you to my particular care. I am authorized to
offer you at present a nomination for the Chevalier Guard.”

This was a great honour. In this splendid corps every private was a
noble of the highest birth and a Knight of Malta. Upon state occasions
the members formed the monarch’s guard of honour; they had the _entrée_
to the receptions at the palace; they dined at the imperial table.
Their uniform, upon which fabulous sums were expended, was a mantle of
scarlet, with a massive silver cuirass bearing a large Maltese cross in
relief; and the trappings of their priceless Arabian horses glittered
with gold and jewels. Ivan, knowing all this, remained silent, his face
a curious mixture of intense gratification and extreme embarrassment.

The kind old general beckoned him nearer and spoke in a lower tone. “I
believe I understand your feelings, my young friend. You are thinking
of the expenses the gentlemen of the Chevalier Guard usually take pride
and pleasure in incurring--of their armour, their horses, and so forth.
Upon that ground you need hesitate no longer. His Imperial Majesty has
requested me to attend to all your requirements.”

“His goodness overpowers me,” said Ivan with emotion. “But, my general,
that is not my only nor my chief reason for hesitation.”

“What other can you possibly have? My own grandson would give one of
his eyes to be in your place.”

“My general, Napoleon is near Moscow, and the Chevaliers of the
Imperial Guard are, I believe, in St. Petersburg.”

“So that is your objection! But they have not been there always, and
they are not going to remain there now.”

“Is it not their duty and their honour to remain near the august person
of their sovereign? and that--”

Soltikoff interrupted him with a smile. “Make your mind easy, my young
friend. The red mantles of the Chevalier Guard will soon have the
opportunity of acquiring a deeper dye. Already they have received their
marching orders, and in a few days they start for the seat of war.
There is barely time for your equipment and your investiture, if you
wish to go with them.”

“_Wish it!_” cried Ivan, with kindling eyes. “Whilst Napoleon--who has
spoiled Moscow and burned the Kremlin--still sets his foot upon the
soil of holy Russia, I could not support life without doing all that
one man may do to drive him thence with infamy.”

“My brave boy, I share your feelings. I could wish myself two score
years younger to take my place amongst the combatants. Nor is mine,” he
added, “the only heart that throbs with the soldier’s longing. But too
gladly would he who is the highest of all stand this moment in the van
of all, did not the bonds of a sacred duty detain him here.”

“My general,” said Ivan, “I am overcome with gratitude. The honour of
serving my sovereign, in the position he has assigned me, is beyond my
utmost dreams.”

“Then that is settled. Here is my son, who is anxious to take
possession of you. He will introduce you to the Commandant of the
Knights of Malta.”

At a sign from his father, the younger Soltikoff came forward, and
cordially invited Ivan to his house. Seeing him hesitate for a moment
before replying, he said, “Perhaps you have friends with you?”
Ivan mentioned Adrian Wertsch, who was immediately included in the
invitation. He then remembered Michael, and turning once more towards
the general, craved permission to add a few words. This being readily
granted, he told the mujik’s story; and the poor fellow’s courage and
devotion touched both the Soltikoffs.

“I think,” said the general, “we might put him into the artillery. He
could help to serve a gun. Send him to Colonel Tourgenieff; my son will
give you the address.”

The days that followed were “marked evermore with white” in the
calendar of Ivan Pojarsky. His host introduced him to the best society
of St. Petersburg; he became acquainted with the Galitzins, the
Tolstois, the Narishkins, the Gagarines, and was welcomed everywhere
as a young man who had done much that was heroic and seen much that
was interesting. He was presented to both the empresses;[36] he
attended an imperial reception at Kamenoi-Ostrov, offered his humble
acknowledgments to the Czar for his kindness, and had a few gracious
words addressed to him in public, which at once raised to the highest
point his popularity with the great world.

But he could not help observing that this was a world strangely
unlike that which he had known in Moscow before the war. The reckless
extravagance, the heedless gaiety, the wild dissipation of those days
seemed to be no more. Over many of the noble houses where he visited
the angel of death had already spread his wings,--a son, a brother,
a nephew had fallen at Smolensko or Borodino; while over all there
brooded the apprehension of the same dread visitation, producing, if
not melancholy, at least seriousness. Ladies of fashion, instead of
playing cards or loto, prepared lint for the wounded or garments for
the perishing. Great efforts were being made for the relief of the
sufferers in the terrible tragedy of Moscow; and Ivan rejoiced to see
immense convoys of clothing and provisions setting out from the new
capital for the old.

Troops of all kinds were coming every day to the city, or leaving
it for the seat of war. Ivan’s friends pointed out to him, with
justifiable pride, the excellent equipment of the soldiers, and told
him of the unwearied exertions of the Czar to supply the whole of his
enormous army not only with the necessaries, but even with the comforts
of life. “Every man in the service,” it was said, “has his fur pelisse,
his warm boots, even his warm gloves.”[37] Infinite care and pains were
expended upon the commissariat; and depots of all kinds of provisions
were established wherever they were likely to be needed.

In a few days Michael came joyfully to inform “Barrinka” that he had
attained the desire of his heart. “Praised be the great St. Nicholas!”
he said, “I am to be a gunner. My officer tells me that after a little
training I shall be able to pull a thing they call the lanyard. It
makes the gun go off, and kills the Nyemtzi.” But no earthly happiness
is ever without alloy, and Michael’s was not an exception. There was
one hardship, in his own estimation very serious, to which he had to
submit. “Barrinka,” he asked, “why must our beards be cut off before we
go to fight the Nyemtzi?”

“It has been always done,” said Ivan. “It is the custom. Besides, do
you not know it makes you a free man? The very hour your beard is cut,
you cease to be a serf; you have no longer any lord on earth except the
Czar.”

“I do not care to be a free man,” grumbled Michael; “and I do not see
why I must part with my beard, which God gave me. It is very hard.”

Ivan laughed. “My dear lad,” he said, “you have given your hand for our
lord the Czar; you are ready to give your life for him; then why do you
grudge him your beard?”

“Do you call it giving to _him_?” asked Michael. “That makes a
difference certainly. Though I cannot see what the Czar wants with my
beard, still, if it be his Majesty’s pleasure, he shall have it.”

Shortly afterwards he paid Ivan another visit. Great was the
transformation in his outer man. The cherished beard was gone; he
wore, instead of his caftan, the green uniform of a gunner; and he was
already beginning to acquire the indefinable but unmistakable air of
the trained soldier. “Only think, Barrinka,” he began eagerly;--“I am
afraid you will not believe me, but I am ready to swear it is true upon
the picture of my saint. Besides, all the men in our corps heard it,
and can tell you I say nothing but the fact, just as it happened.”

“But you have not yet told me what the fact is. What has happened to
you, Michael?”

“The Czar has spoken to me,” said Michael with beaming eyes--“the Czar,
his very self.”

“How?--when?--what did he say?” cried Ivan, now thoroughly excited.

“He came to-day to inspect our corps--‘recruits for the artillery
service,’ we are called. You will not need to be told that every man
of us did his best, and that we made the air ring with our cheers and
‘houras.’ When the parade was over, I saw him speaking to our captain,
who looked towards me, and then called me forward. ‘Your Imperial
Majesty,’ says he, ‘this is the man.’ ‘Give me your hand, my brave
lad,’ says the Czar, taking in his own this very hand of mine that you
see now. ‘I know how you lost the other, and I honour your courage and
devotion. You have been tried and found faithful.’ I fell on my knees
and kissed the hand that held mine; which would be honour enough for
such as _you_, Barrinka, not to speak of a poor mujik like me. Then he
said to all of us, ‘You have done well, my children;’ and we answered
with a shout, ‘Father, we will do better next time’[38] So he rode
away,--God bless him!--and the rest all crowded round me, embraced me,
and wished me joy. Now my one hand, which he has touched, is quite as
good as two.”

Ivan shared the joy of his humble friend. He himself was beginning to
learn some lessons which were new and strange to him, and which perhaps
the miseries he had witnessed and the sorrows he had experienced had
been preparing him to receive. In the circles where he moved now
there was no longer any scoffing at religion, but rather a devout and
reverent acknowledgment of the hand of God. Most of the nobility were
diligent in their attendance upon the church services; but some ladies,
and a few men of the highest position, were spoken of in the hearing
of Ivan as remarkably pious. Foremost amongst these were the Princess
Metchersky and the Countess Tolstoi, Prince Alexander Galitzin, and the
Sardinian ambassador De Maistre. No reproach was implied or intended;
their piety seemed to be rather considered as a distinction, and it
was usually added that they stood high in the imperial favour.

On the last evening of his stay in St. Petersburg, Ivan saw one of his
acquaintances--a nephew of the Grand-Marshal Tolstoi, and like himself
a member of the Chevalier Guard--sitting apart absorbed in a book. The
stirring romance of real life had of late driven all other romances out
of the mind of Ivan; but the sight of an interested reader awakened his
slumbering tastes. He came to the side of Tolstoi--a gay, good-natured
youth, to whom he could say anything he pleased. “Is that a new book
which you seem to like so much?” he asked.

“I am ashamed to confess it is new to me, or was so until lately,”
returned Tolstoi.

“What is it? A romance? I should think it a kindness if you would lend
it to me when you have done with it yourself.”

“Look at it,” said Tolstoi, placing it in his hand.

It was in French, as Ivan expected; but its appearance was different
from that of any French book he had ever seen before. Although divided
into chapters and verses, it was evidently not poetry, and very sacred
names were of frequent occurrence. He turned to the opening page, and
exclaimed in surprise, “The New Testament!--how strange!”

“Why should it be strange?” said Tolstoi simply. “What better book
could I find to read?”

“What is it all about?” asked Ivan. “Of course I know there are the
holy gospels, but this book seems to contain a great deal besides.”

“Oh! I cannot tell you in a moment. Read it for yourself, and you will
soon learn to love it well.”

Ivan turned back again to the page with which his friend had been
occupied, and which he had kept open with his finger. He read these
words: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them
that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and
persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in
heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and
sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” “That sort of religion
would never answer!” he exclaimed indignantly, allowing the book to
fall from his hand. “What? _Love the French?_ Do good to _them_? Pray
for _them_? I think whoever recommended you, just now, the reading of
this book, must have gone altogether out of his senses. We should all
be ruined if such ideas as these got abroad amongst us, especially at
the present moment, when it is our supreme duty to hate the enemies of
the Czar and to destroy them.”

“Then how comes it to pass that the Czar himself loves this book and
reads it daily?” asked Tolstoi, as he reverently took up the volume
from the ground.

“I cannot believe that,” said Ivan.

“It is quite true. I heard it from my uncle, who, as you know, is
always about his person. It was that which made me read it first. Now I
love it--better than any other book in the world.”

“Since you tell me all this, I will buy a copy, and take it with me to
the camp. Pope Yefim would be pleased if he knew it. He has sometimes
lamented to me that the unlearned cannot have the Scripture narratives
in any tongue they are able to understand. There is the old Slavonic,
of course, but you might almost as well try to read Babylonish.”

“There is French--for _us_,” said Tolstoi; “and I own that it seems a
better thing to me to read the sayings of Christ than the scoffs of
Voltaire.”

“Perhaps you are right,” Ivan answered thoughtfully. After a pause he
added, “Since I have stood alone, like one on a rock in the midst of a
raging sea, with death before me, death behind me, and death on each
side of me, I have sometimes thought what strength it would give me if
only I could look up and see a Face bent down on me from above, a Hand
outstretched to help me.”

The next day the Chevalier Guards began their march, and Ivan with
them. Adrian also returned to his duty; and soon they were in the midst
of one of the most memorable campaigns the world has ever seen.



CHAPTER XX.

WEARY, WANDERING FEET.

  “There shall be no more snow,
  No weary, wandering feet.”


It was one of the early days of a genuine Russian winter. The vast
and desolate plain between Moscow and Smolensko was white with snow;
bitter winds thick with falling flakes were sweeping over it; and the
wintry sun struggled in vain to pierce a dense frosty fog. A regiment
of French infantry, weary, dispirited, and famishing with hunger,
was toiling through the snow-drifts. Already the ranks were thinned
terribly, while the ghastly faces and shrunken limbs of the survivors
told the story of their sufferings. All the soldier’s pride in his
appearance, in the brightness of his arms, in the trim perfection of
his accoutrements, had vanished long ago; half the disorderly crowd
had thrown away the muskets they were too weak to carry, nor was a
dress to be seen that deserved the name of a uniform. Any warm garment
found amongst the spoils of Moscow was made to do duty as an overcoat,
without regard to the sex of its original wearer. Our old friend Seppel
wore a lady’s fur-lined dressing-gown, whilst the practical Féron
contented himself with a sheep-skin shuba which had once enveloped the
ample form of a Russian coachman. But no fur was warm enough to keep
the bitter cold of that wintry day from the weakened frames of men
whose only food since leaving Moscow had been a few handfuls of rye
soaked in water or a little horse-flesh.

Clinging to the arm of Féron was a form slight and worn, and evidently
ready to sink with fatigue. “Peste! Mind what you are about there!”
cried Féron sharply, as Henri de Talmont stumbled and sank to his knees
in a snow-drift a little deeper than usual. Then, pulling him up again
by main force and setting him on his feet--“Can’t you see where you are
going?” he asked.

“No, I cannot see,” answered Henri in a weary voice. “Féron, you have
been very good to me. But it is no use. You must let me go.”

“I shall do no such thing. Here, my boy, take a pull at this;” and he
put a flask filled with vodka to the lips of his friend. “Now you can
see a little better,” he said with a laugh, as the stimulant brought
a momentary colour to the pale cheek of Henri. “Can’t you hear too?
Listen! there are wheels coming near us, and horse-hoofs. God grant it
may be stores of some kind, and if so”--Féron paused a moment and set
his teeth resolutely--“the Old Guard themselves, with the Emperor at
their head, shall not keep them from us.”

The wheels were already quite close, else under the circumstances they
could not have heard them at all. A carriage drawn by four horses,
and attended by outriders, came dashing by. It had only one occupant,
a general of division, wrapped from head to foot in rich furs; but
every available spot was crammed with packages and bottles. Some of
the men sprang towards it, and clinging to the back or the sides,
begged in piteous accents for bread, meat, spirits, even a little
tobacco--anything “Monsieur le Général” would be good enough to spare
them. The coachman and the outriders had to use their whips pretty
freely to get rid of them. It was only surprising that they did not
take what they wanted by force; but either the lack of courage and
mutual understanding, or perhaps some remains of military discipline,
prevented an outbreak of open violence.

“Fools for their pains!” said Féron bitterly. “They might know by this
time that the general _never_ has anything to spare for the soldier.
But I am glad he is gone, for the sight of his luxuries made me mad.
May his horses break their knees in the next snow-drift! Sure to do it
before long. That’s one comfort!”

“And then,” said a comrade, “perhaps we may overtake him, and get
horses, stores, and all. What a supper we should have!”

“Ay,” observed another, “_his_ horses are very unlike the last we
supped upon. Poor brutes! they were little more than skin and bone.”

“Féron,” asked a third, “are there no horses in this accursed
country--no men, no food, no anything?”

“Not much, I suppose, at the best of times. But remember, my lad, we
marched over this very ground ourselves a few months ago, and wasted
and destroyed all we could find.”

It was too true. In this respect they were filled with the fruit
of their own devices; their wanton acts of pillage and devastation
recoiled upon their own heads.

“Féron,” murmured once more the faint voice of Henri, “I can go no
further. I _must_ lie down and rest.”

“Monsieur Henri, if you lie down on that ground, you rise never more.”

“I know it; but I can bear up no longer. My sight is gone, my limbs are
failing. Dear Féron, let me go.” And in spite of the sustaining arm of
his friend, he staggered and fell. Féron bent over him, entreating him
to rise, and offering his help.

“O Monsieur Henri, think of your mother--of your sister, Mademoiselle
Clémence. If you hope ever to see their sweet faces again, rouse
yourself, exert all your strength.”

But already Henri seemed half-asleep. A look of rest stole over his
worn features, and his eyes were closed. Opening them for a moment,
he murmured, “Féron--my mother--Clémence. Ask them to forgive me.
Good-bye, dear Féron. God bless thee!”

The others meanwhile continued their march. In those terrible days
the fall of a comrade scarcely made a Frenchman turn his head. Seppel
called to Féron, “Come along, man! For what are you lingering?”

To stay behind would be to share the fate of Henri, not to rescue him.
Féron turned sadly away; but after taking two or three steps, turned
back once more, murmuring, “What a fool I am! No good to him, and a
sore loss to me. Still, if he _should_ awake, even for a moment.”
Stooping down, he slipped his flask of vodka into the benumbed hand of
Henri. “Adieu, comrade,” he said. “If ever I see France again, I will
tell thy mother and Mademoiselle Clémence.”

He rejoined his comrades, and marched on; but as long as it continued
in sight, he could not help looking back, every now and then, to that
black spot in the snow where a comrade had lain down to die. “Soon
enough,” he thought, “it will be covered with white, and all trace of
my poor friend gone for ever. Perhaps _I_ may be the next--who knows?”

But at least there was one sufferer unconscious of suffering now. A
feeling of utter peace, of deep content, unknown for many days, steeped
the weary senses of Henri. He seemed to be sinking into the heart of
a profound and dreamless sleep. Pain and fatigue--cold and hunger of
body--aching, feverish unrest of spirit--all had ceased together.
The last sounds that reached his dulled ear before he passed into
unconsciousness were the words of Féron, “Thy mother and Mademoiselle
Clémence.” And once again those beloved faces drew near--bent over
him--glimmered faintly and yet more faintly--at last vanished into air.
But he did not even know that they had vanished. All was oblivion now.

Assuredly never again in this world would Henri de Talmont have
awakened, had not a sudden thrill of agony called him roughly back to
life. He started up to wrestle with a great half-savage wolf-dog, which
had fixed its sharp fangs in his arm. Pain and desperation lent him a
momentary strength, and clenching his hand, he dealt his antagonist a
blow between the eyes that sent it howling away over the snow. Then he
picked up Féron’s flask, and having thanked in his heart that generous
friend, he drank some of its contents, which seemed to infuse new life
into his frame.

Thus strengthened, he rose and stood upon his feet. It was midnight.
The snow had ceased to fall, and the fierce winds of winter had dropped
into utter stillness. Above his head the moon shone forth from a
cloudless sky, and a thousand stars glittered with frosty brightness.
Not a living thing was in sight, not a tree, not even a stone. Nothing
met his gaze but a broad expanse of stainless white, covering the whole
horizon like a veil of silver. How desolate it looked, yet how fair and
pure! With what bright softness the moonbeams touched the snow! and how
calmly the majestic eyes of those sleepless, starry watchers looked
down from on high, as though they would say to the toiling, suffering
sons of men, “We have seen ten thousand times ten thousand nights like
this since the making of the world. We know the secret of the Lord. He
means something by every star and every snowflake; and what he means is
very good.”

“He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by their
names.” The words flashed unbidden through the mind of Henri. He
remembered that in this solitude he was not alone. God was here. He
could not turn to God as his friend, and he _knew_ that he could not.
Brought up in a religious atmosphere, he was all the more distinctly
conscious that he himself was not religious--that he stood outside some
sacred enclosure Clémence had entered, that he had not something which
she had. But had it been a stranger or an enemy whose presence he felt
amidst that immense, dreary, aching solitude, still he would have flung
himself at his feet and implored his help and pity. Surely he might
cast himself upon the God who counted the shining host above his head;
surely that God would look down with pity on the creature his hand had
made, who was “wandering in dumb dismay” over the untrodden snow. If He
would only bring him home, and let him see his mother’s face again, and
ask her forgiveness before he died!

He knelt down and prayed; if indeed the words were not a cry of agony
rather than a prayer. But they were breathed into the ear of One who
heareth the young ravens when they cry and the beasts of the forest
when they seek their food. As he rose, he noticed some bright thing
glistening in the moonlight near the spot where he had been lying. He
took it up, and found that it was a tin case containing preserved meat.
No doubt it had belonged to the general of division, and had fallen out
of his carriage as he passed. But to Henri it seemed the beginning of
an answer to his prayer. He ate a portion of the meat, reserving the
rest for future use, and drank a little more vodka. Thus a degree of
animation was restored to his exhausted system. “Even yet,” he thought,
“I may rejoin my companions.”

There was no wind, yet so intense was the cold that it seemed to pierce
him through and through. He felt as though he were in a bath of ice.
He determined to keep moving, to walk on straight before him as long
as he had strength to do so. He supposed that he was still upon a road
of some kind, because when he diverged to the right or to the left the
snow became deeper, while if he kept his direct course it did not reach
above his ankles.

Onwards he toiled, and still onwards, weary and footsore, yet not quite
despairing. He knew well that if he yielded to his ever-increasing
fatigue so far as to lie down again, he should rise no more. It seemed
as if years had passed since he parted with his comrades, a lifetime
since he quitted Moscow; and as to his old happy life in France, _that_
belonged to another and earlier stage of existence, almost beyond his
recollection.

Red rose the sun over the snowy landscape, to sink again, after the
brief wintry day, in clouds of purple and amber. Once more the stars
came out, and still Henri toiled on. But his strength was well-nigh
spent; he was ready to sink from fatigue, and his little store of meat
and vodka had long since been exhausted. “After all,” he thought, “it
is hopeless. As well die first as last.--But what is this? Have the
stars come down upon the ground? or whence are those lights I see in
the distance?”

He tried to collect his failing senses and to think. Could this be
a town he was approaching? No; the lights were not numerous enough.
Perhaps it might be a Russian village? Scarcely; for that the lights
seemed too far apart,--though, even if it were, he would take his
chance and go forward. Better to fall, like some of his comrades,
beneath the axes of the mujiks, than to perish with cold and hunger in
the trackless wilderness.

Suddenly he cried aloud, making his voice ring over the snow, “Bivouac
fires!” A gush of joy, long unknown to him, filled his heart, bringing
with it, from its very intensity, a kind of momentary pain, as the
warmth for which he was longing would bring a tingling pain to his
half-frozen limbs. “Bivouac fires!” he cried once more, with a glad,
weak voice. “I shall see the faces of my comrades; I shall hear their
voices. Thank God!”

Hope and joy lent new strength to his weary feet. As he drew nearer to
the lights, he saw that the snow was trampled by footsteps and crushed
by wheels. And then the thought occurred to him, “If these should be
our enemies? If I should find myself in the midst of Russians?” But as
the cheerful blaze of the nearest fire grew clearer and more distinct,
and he saw figures moving around it, fear and hesitation vanished. He
felt nothing but a wild longing to get close to it, which grew every
moment more intense. Running, slipping, staggering along as best he
could, at last he threw himself on the ground before the fire, in the
very midst of the group that surrounded it.

“Eh! what have we got here?” cried some one with an oath. The words
were French, so much at least was plain to Henri’s bewildered senses;
and at the same time a very savoury odour reaching his nostrils
reminded him that he was famishing with hunger.

The next moment he was roughly seized and dragged upon his knees. “What
do you want here? You are none of us. Be off with you, and pretty quick
too!” cried a fellow dressed in a velvet coat which had once belonged
to some Moscow exquisite.

Slowly and stiffly Henri rose to his feet. “Comrades,” he said with a
bewildered air, “it is you who are making a mistake. I am one of you--a
Frenchman--a private in the Tenth Infantry--”

“Hang the Tenth Infantry! It is every man for himself here. You are not
one of our coterie.[39] We cannot feed all the stragglers of the grand
army. Begone this instant, or--” A push with the butt end of his musket
finished the sentence.

The heartless cruelty of his countrymen filled up the measure of
Henri’s cup of suffering. His spirit was broken. With no power, with
scarcely even a wish to struggle any longer for his life, he staggered
slowly away, intending to lie down in the nearest snow-drift and die.

Some one took a blazing brand out of the fire and flung it after him.
“If you want fire, take it!” cried he, and a mocking laugh rang in the
ears of Henri. He turned, and said, “Would that I had met this night,
instead of you Frenchmen, a company of Russians--or, still better, a
pack of wolves!”

“What is all this about?” asked a deep, hoarse voice, and a tall figure
rose slowly from the opposite side of the fire.

“It is a straggler, a _polisson_, who was trying to join our coterie.
We have just been sending him about his business,” was the answer.

“What a hurry you were in! Bring him to me,” said the voice of
authority.

There was no need to bring him. Henri himself turned gladly, though
very feebly, towards this new arbiter of his fate. But when he saw
him, he started in surprise. It is true that part of his uniform was
concealed by a long cloak lined with fur, but his great hairy cap, and
his white waistcoat and gaiters, showed him to be one of the Old Guard,
the very _élite_ of the French army. These veterans were objects of
envy to all their fellow-soldiers; for while the rest had been treated
with cruel neglect and indifference, receiving between Moscow and
Smolensko absolutely no rations whatever, the Old Guard were well and
carefully fed, and supplied abundantly with wine or spirits. The reason
was obvious. Upon them devolved a duty of paramount importance, that
of guarding the person of Napoleon. Therefore, when the bulk of the
army, demoralized by its sufferings, had broken up into fragments, the
Old Guard was still able to keep rank, to present a noble appearance,
and oppose a firm front to the enemy. Hence the surprise of Henri
at finding one of its number amongst a group of wretched-looking
stragglers belonging to various regiments.

Meanwhile the Guardsman surveyed him with a critical eye. “Why, this is
only a slip of a lad, un petit jeune homme,” he said. “He looks half
dead already. Mes enfants, he shall stay with us.”

Faint tones of remonstrance began to make themselves heard, but they
were silenced in a very summary fashion. The Guardsman laid his bronzed
hand, hard as iron, upon the shoulder of Henri. “Sacre!” he cried. “You
shall take him and me together. Both of us, or neither!”

This was decisive. The poor, abject, half-starved wretches knew their
master; they felt their lives depended upon his care and guidance; and
they obeyed him as, in a time of need, the incapable usually obey any
capable person who undertakes to direct them. Room was made for Henri
beside the fire, and the very man who had flung the brand after him
a few minutes before now volunteered to chafe one of his ears, which
showed symptoms of being frozen.

Supper was served, consisting of a piece of roasted horse-flesh without
bread or salt, and a very small quantity of rum, carefully measured out
to each member of the party, and mixed with snow-water. Then every man
crept as close to the fire as he could, wrapped about him what garments
he had, and tried to sleep; every man, that is to say, except the
Guard, who, explaining to Henri that some one must always watch, and
that the first watch of the night devolved upon him, lit his pipe with
a meditative air, and seated himself beside the fire.

Weary as Henri was, he could not help asking one or two questions.
“Garde,” he said, “do you know where we are?”

“Somewhere on the way to Smolensko, which, if we live, we may reach
perhaps in two days or three.”

“Shall we find our regiments again, do you think?”

“I cannot answer for yours, my boy; the new ones seem to be melting
like snow-flakes. The Old Guard,” he added with a flash of pride, “is
always to be found, whether by friend or foe.”

“These men around us, who are they?”

“Waifs and strays, like yourself. We are gathering together in coteries
of a dozen or so, to try and keep one another alive in this horrible
desert.”

“Little life they would have left in me, but for _you_, Garde. God
bless you for your kindness.”

“Thank you, comrade. Blessings do a man as little harm as curses any
day. Here, take a pull at my pipe.”

“No, thank you. I don’t smoke.”

“More fool you! That is the way you young conscripts die off, because
you never know what is good for you, nor how to keep your souls inside
your bodies. Now, when I was in Egypt”--here he stopped suddenly,
and a look of emotion passed over his bronzed, weather-beaten
features--“ay, Egypt, Italy, Spain,--Lodi, Marengo, Austerlitz, Wagram,
Friedland,--why go over all these now? Why recall the past--the
glorious past? Why, indeed? Have our eagles floated over all the world
to lie buried in a Russian snow-drift! Bah! This confusion is only
temporary. You shall soon see the Emperor rise again in his glory, and
overwhelm our hounds of enemies with destruction. I tell thee, boy, he
is unconquerable. A cloud--a little fleeting cloud--may pass over his
star and hide it for a moment, but it will shine out again all the more
brightly afterwards.”

“But,” said Henri sadly, “if he expected us to fight for him, he ought
to have fed us.”

“My lad,” said the Guardsman sternly, laying his hand upon Henri’s
shoulder, and turning him round away from the fire, “you see that snow?”

“I have seen too much of it,” returned Henri. “I think I shall never
see anything else.”

“Out there you go, to have part or lot with us never more, the first
word you speak against the Emperor. With his own hand he gave me these
medals, this cross”--touching his breast--“and, moreover, he said to
me once when he was reviewing us, ‘Pierre Rougeard, I know you for a
brave man. It was you--was it not?--who took that pair of colours at
Lodi?’”

“Garde, how were you separated from the rest?”

“You will see to-morrow that I am lame. In a skirmish near Moscow I got
a ball in my leg and a sabre cut on my shoulder. We who were wounded
were all put into waggons by the Emperor’s orders, to be sent on to
Smolensko; but those in charge of us, thinking our lives less precious
than the plunder they were bringing from Moscow, flung us out by the
wayside to die.”[40]

“Wretches! May the Emperor punish them as they deserve.”

“The Emperor has much more important things to think about. We of the
Old Guard do not die easily; what would kill conscripts like you, only
hardens us. I contrived to live and to creep along, picking up every
day a comrade or two in distress, until we formed the little coterie
you see now. I hope to overtake the Old Guard at Smolensko--if not,
farther on. All I live for is to rejoin my colours, and to fight once
more for the Emperor. But you are almost asleep. Sleep on, my boy;
to-night, at least, you shall neither freeze nor starve.”

Henri _was_ almost asleep. But he roused himself for a moment or two
to breathe a thanksgiving to Almighty God for the help sent him in his
need; together with an earnest prayer that he would be pleased to bring
him through all dangers again to his native land, to see the face of
his mother and of Clémence.

All succeeding generations will ask in half incredulous wonder how
it came to pass that a splendid army, numbering over six hundred
thousand men, and commanded by perhaps the greatest military genius
that ever existed, could fall so suddenly and swiftly into a state
of utter disorganization and abject misery. Certainly never,
since those ancient days when the Red Sea rolled over the hosts of
Pharaoh, or the angel of the pestilence smote the sleeping myriads of
Sennacherib, was the arm of the Lord stretched out more visibly in
the sight of the nations. Yet it is the glory of Infinite Wisdom, not
to interpose amongst the wheels of human action with arbitrary breaks
and changes, but so to direct the whole stupendous machine that wrong
works out its own punishment and right its ultimate justification
by the operation of everlasting laws. In gaining Moscow, Napoleon
expected to gain everything--food and shelter for his troops, stores
of all descriptions, treasures enough to satisfy the greed of those
soldiers of fortune whom the hope of plunder had attracted to his
standards. He expected to dictate a humiliating peace to the crushed
and trembling Czar, and to make yet one more submissive tributary
of hitherto unconquered Russia. But in the flames of Moscow and the
heroic resolution of Alexander he found the destruction of his plans.
Retreat became a necessity; and it had to be made through a country
already devastated by the license of his armies--license for which
he made himself responsible, which indeed he forced upon them, by
neglecting to provide them with the necessaries of life. This cruel
neglect recoiled upon his own head: even before the severities of a
northern winter set in[41] the hosts of Napoleon were _perishing with
hunger_. “If he expected us to fight for him, he ought to have fed
us,” was the mournful accusation that fell from the dying lips of many
a gallant soldier, who, faithful to the end, would allow himself to
utter no other reproach. What famine and pestilence--the result of
insufficient and unwholesome food--had begun, was completed by the
arrows of the winter in the hand of God himself. As, on the occasion
of another memorable national deliverance, “he blew with his wind,”
and the foes of his people were scattered; so now he cast forth
his ice like morsels, and who was able to abide his frost? Snow and
vapour and stormy wind fulfilled his word. Of the six hundred thousand
warriors who crossed the Niemen in the pride of their strength, only
about forty thousand miserable fugitives--diseased, forlorn, and
famished--straggled back again five months later.



CHAPTER XXI.

OVER THE BERESINA.

  “Milder yet thy snowy breezes
    Pour on yonder tented shores,
  Where the Rhine’s broad billow freezes,
    Or the tent-brown Danube roars.
  Oh, winds of winter, list ye there
    To many a deep and dying groan;
  Or start, ye demons of the midnight air,
    At shrieks and thunders louder than your own!
  Alas! even your unhallowed breath
    May spare the victim, fallen low;
  But man will ask no truce to death,
    No bounds to human woe.”


Rougeard and his companions succeeded in reaching Smolensko, but
only to find it a scene of intolerable wretchedness and unutterable
confusion. The Emperor and the Old Guard had left some days previously,
and for the disorganized troops pouring every hour into the miserable,
ruined city, there was neither food nor shelter, neither order nor
discipline. So our little coterie still kept together, and hoping
against hope determined to continue their march towards the frontier.

Ten or twelve weary days of marching followed. Always hungry, always
cold, always tired, Henri would have given up the struggle once and
again, but for the thought which kept for ever

  “Beating in upon his weary brain,
  As though it were the burden of a song”--

“I must see my mother and my sister again; I cannot die without my
mother’s forgiveness.”

Usually their only food was a little horse-flesh, but even that failed
them frequently; nor could fuel be always found for the fire of their
bivouac. From the bodies of their comrades that strewed the way they
sometimes obtained articles of clothing--a sad resource, but all,
even the gentle Henri, were now becoming inured to sights of horror.
Sometimes they would meet with other coteries whose condition was
as pitiable as their own, or they would be alarmed by a few stray
shots from the “clouds of Cossacks” that hovered about them. Rougeard
informed them that the enemy was _beside_, not _behind_ them; the
Russians having very prudently chosen their lines of march parallel
to that of the retreating French armies, which were thus kept from
straying to the right or to the left, and sternly restricted to the
track their own cruelty had already rendered a desert.

At last a serious misfortune happened to the little band. A long day’s
march, absolutely without food and in piercing cold, had exhausted
them all. Rougeard, who was by far the strongest of the party, said to
his companions, “Rest in the shelter of this wall, while I go a little
further towards the lights I see yonder. I daresay some of our people
are there; perhaps they will respect my uniform, and spare us a little
food.” He moved away, but turned back for a moment to add, “Keep up
your hearts, my lads. If your strength is good for one day’s marching
more, I think you may see the Beresina before to-morrow night.”

That was the last time they looked upon the face or heard the voice of
Pierre Rougeard. Whether he was buried in the snow, was murdered or
made prisoner by the Russians, they could not tell. His loss dissolved
the coterie which his influence had held together. Its members went
their several ways, and far too sad a task would it be for us to follow
them. Each in his own measure fulfilled the awful doom that had fallen
upon the host to which he belonged. For the word had gone forth: “Thus
saith the Lord, Such as are for death, to death; such as are for the
sword, to the sword; and such as are for the famine, to the famine; and
such as are for the captivity, to the captivity.”

We may, however, follow for a little way the fortunes of Rougeard. The
bivouac fires he saw at a distance proved to be those of a Russian
regiment of volunteers. He fell into the hands of the sentries, and
in spite of a resistance as desperate as his exhausted condition
permitted him to make, was secured, and brought at once to the colonel,
a Russian nobleman named Demidoff. To his questions Rougeard replied
with proud fearlessness; but he owned, upon being asked, that he was
famishing with hunger. Demidoff, who perhaps had been reading the Book
his sovereign loved so well, led the prisoner to his own tent, where
an elegant and abundant dinner had just been served. “Sit down, my
friend,” he said to him, “eat and drink; you are welcome.”

But the veteran did not obey. His brave, proud heart, which no peril
of field or flood or wilderness had ever daunted, was melted, was
crushed by the unexpected kindness. A great shudder passed over his
frame. Trembling “as certainly he never would have trembled before the
enemy,” he said with uncontrollable emotion, “Can it be that a Russian,
an officer, bids me sit down to eat and drink with him, after all the
horrors we have committed in his country, and against his Emperor?”[42]

But it could not be expected that all Russians would take their revenge
after the manner of Demidoff. Many of the mujiks, who had been insulted
and plundered, or had seen their relatives murdered by the French, put
the prisoners that fell into their hands to a cruel death. Fortunately,
reports of these outrages soon reached St. Petersburg, and a ukase was
despatched immediately by the hand of a special courier, forbidding all
such practices on pain of the Czar’s highest displeasure; and, as the
most effectual mode of preventing them, offering the reward of a ducat
of gold for every prisoner brought safely to head-quarters.

Henri de Talmont bore in mind Rougeard’s parting words, and determined
at all hazards to try to reach the Beresina. He was strengthened in his
belief that he was drawing near some point of general rendezvous by the
constantly increasing crowds. At length, instead of a vast and solitary
plain, he found himself traversing a broad high-road, frozen hard,
and thronged with a disorderly rabble of soldiers and camp-followers,
amongst whom vehicles of all kinds were moving with difficulty. Some
of these were baggage-waggons, but the great majority contained women
and children connected in various ways with the French army, and
endeavouring with it to make their escape from a hostile country. Most
pitiable was the fate of those unhappy fugitives.

As Henri stumbled wearily along, the velvet cap of a little child
dropped from one of the carriages and fell at his feet. He picked it up
and restored it to its owner, a pretty fair-haired boy about four years
old.

“Thank you, poor soldier,” lisped the child in soft Italian, a language
of which Henri had learned a little from his mother.

“I think, Guido, we could make room for the poor soldier here,” said
the child’s mother, a gentle-looking lady with an infant in her arms;
“he seems very tired.”

Most thankfully did Henri accept the proffered help. He soon
ascertained that the lady was an Italian singer who had come to Russia,
with the band of professional artists to which she belonged, in the
train of the fantastic and pomp-loving King of Naples. These poor
children of pleasure, dragged unawares into the midst of a horrible
tragedy, seemed like butterflies caught in a thunderstorm. Madame Leone
told Henri, with many tears, that her husband had been made prisoner
by the Cossacks, and that she knew not whether he was alive or dead.
Henri tried to console her, helped her to take care of the children,
and defended her as well as he could from the rude assaults of the
famishing soldiers who surrounded the carriage, begging for food, or
rather demanding it.

At last they reached the bank of the Beresina, but it was to find
themselves in the midst of untold confusion and unutterable horror. The
frozen marsh beside the river was thronged with an innumerable crowd,
increasing in density as it neared the heads of the two bridges which
had been thrown across the current. Hundreds of vehicles were there,
vainly attempting to force a passage through the living mass. Oaths and
shrieks, cries, groans, and entreaties resounded upon every side. To
add to the terrors of the scene, the Russians were pouring a continuous
fire upon the troops which were endeavouring to cross the river.

In the midst of all this bewildering, maddening confusion, Henri found
himself thinking dreamily of his mother’s stories of the terrible
passage of the Loire by the defeated Vendéans. “It was like the day of
judgment,” she used to say. “And what,” asked Henri, “would she have
thought of _this_?”

He was startled by a voice near him. “Monsieur Henri, is it you? Is it
really you?” cried some one in the crowd, seizing his hand and grasping
it. “This is indeed a miracle.”

“Féron! dear Féron!” exclaimed Henri, springing from his seat in the
carriage and throwing himself into the arms of his comrade.

Questions and explanations followed, and each told the other his
adventures since they parted.

“Where is our regiment?” asked Henri.

“It has ceased to exist,” returned Féron. “‘Sauve qui peut’ is our only
marching order now.”

“Ah, friend,” said Henri, “I see you have suffered. Your hand--”

“Frost-bitten one bitter night. I could not help thinking when I lost
it of that poor Russian whom we branded in the hand before we came to
Moscow. Do you remember him, Monsieur Henri?”

“I ought to remember him. I saw him again in the city, and he did me a
good turn.--Now, Féron, I want you, if you can, to help me to protect
this lady and these two helpless little children.”

“_If_ I can. But we must be patient. Those who are rushing madly
forward to try and reach the bridge only increase their own danger.
Already they are trampling one another down by dozens.”

“Ay,” said Henri, “because they are afraid the bridges will be burned
or broken as soon as the effective troops have passed over them, to
protect the retreat of the Emperor.”

“Fools! Do they think the Emperor will let the bridges be touched so
long as one Frenchman or Frenchwoman remains upon this side? They do
not know him,” returned Féron.

“Perhaps not,” said Henri sadly. “Ah, what is this?” he cried the next
moment, as a bullet whizzed close by them through the air.

“I believe our rear-guard and the Russians are fighting it out, and we
are near enough to come in for a stray shot or two.”

“Then help me to turn this carriage over, that we may make a shelter
for the lady.”

This was accomplished, not without some difficulty. Anxious hours of
suspense and forced inactivity followed. Night fell, but an awful light
still illumined the landscape. What looked like a semicircle of flame
environed half the sky. It was the fiery breath of the Russian cannon.

Suddenly there came a sound of fearful shrieks, and a frantic swaying
and tossing of the crowd. One of the bridges--that constructed for the
artillery--had broken down, precipitating its living freight into
the freezing waters beneath; and the miserable multitude on the bank,
who were suffering more and more from the cannonade of the enemy, now
rushed forward in blind terror to gain the only remaining bridge.

Henri lost sight of Madame Leone and the baby in the press, and it was
with difficulty that he saved little Guido from being trodden under
foot, by holding him continually in his arms.

Féron kept by his side throughout. At last, however, he cried aloud
suddenly, “Comrade, I am done for! That bullet--”

Henri saw it was too true. In great distress he knelt down beside him
and tried to stanch the blood that was flowing from his breast.

Almost at the same moment a company of the rear-guard came thundering
by, forcing their way through the living mass, and cutting down without
remorse or pity all who obstructed their retreat.

“Time to go _now_,” said Féron with an effort. “Monsieur Henri, don’t
stay for me. I thought _I_ would have brought home news of you; now
_you_--but go, I entreat of you, go at once. No time to lose.”

“Never, while _you_ breathe. Besides, as you said, the Emperor will
not leave a Frenchman behind him.” Recollecting that Madame Leone had
filled with wine the flask Féron himself had left with him, he mixed
some of its contents with snow-water, and put the reviving draught to
the lips of his comrade.

“Monsieur Henri,” murmured Féron, “can you say a prayer for me? You
used to pray, though we laughed at you for it in the regiment.”

“There is one prayer I have often prayed since all this trouble came
upon us,” said Henri. “It is good, and it is short; you can say it for
yourself--‘God be merciful to me a sinner, for Jesus Christ’s sake.’”

“God be merciful to me a sinner, for Jesus Christ’s sake,” Féron
repeated earnestly; and during the hour that followed--an hour that
seemed like a year to Henri--the cry was often on his lips.

But he grew weaker and weaker, until at last he fell into a kind of
stupor, while Henri watched silently beside him.

Just about the dawning of the day, a cry, great and terrible, thrilled
every heart, and reached even the dulled ear of the dying man. He
roused himself, and murmured faintly, “What is it, Monsieur Henri?”

Henri knew too well. All around him were repeating, in tones that
expressed every variation of anguish and despair--“The bridge is on
fire! the bridge is burning!” So, after all, Napoleon had _not_ waited
until every Frenchman was safe on the other side!

“‘The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for
the sheep,’” thought Henri bitterly. “But _thou_ shalt never know,
Féron. This pang at least shall be spared thy dying hour.”

He bent once more over his friend, who was feebly repeating the
question--“Monsieur Henri, what is it?”

“Nothing that concerns you or me,” Henri answered firmly. “Do you
suffer, comrade?”

“No--no pain. Only I am sinking--sinking. I want to say that prayer
again. God be merciful--for Christ’s sake.”

With these words on his lips, Féron passed away. Henri had scarcely
time to close his eyes before he was forced by the strong current of
the crowd from the spot where he had been standing. He kept fast hold
of Guido: just now he cared but little what became of himself; his only
thought was to save the child. He was at last pushed into a position
from which he could see the river; but he turned shuddering from the
sight, which indeed was horrible beyond description. Men, women, and
children were struggling in the icy waters, or sinking for the last
time beneath them. Here and there a strong swimmer gained the opposite
bank in safety; but the weak, the famished, the wounded perished by
hundreds. Pieces of the broken bridge, to which drowning wretches were
clinging, floated about amidst _débris_ of every conceivable kind;
and those on board the few sorely overcrowded boats were violently
thrusting away their despairing comrades who tried to enter.

One of these boats was just putting off from the bank when Henri called
aloud, “Take this child with you, for God’s sake!”

A tall man stood upright in the boat. “Hold him up, man,” he cried;
“give us a sight of him.”

Henri did so.

“The very child we are seeking--eh, comrades?” said the man, turning
to his companions. “About three or four years old, fair-haired, with a
crimson velvet cap. Well worth our while--a thousand ducats reward.”
Then to Henri: “Throw him in, my lad.”

This was much more easily said than done. Little Guido clung to his
protector with all his might, absolutely refusing to be separated from
him. Henri found it impossible to unclasp those soft arms from about
his neck, though he tried hard to do it.

Meanwhile the men in the boat were disputing with one another. Some
were willing to take Henri as well as the child; others objected,
afraid of losing the reward or of having to share it with him. But the
tall man who had spoken first decided the question. “Let the lad come
with us,” he said. “Anything to save time.”

So Henri stepped into the boat with his little companion still in his
arms. It did not occur to him until afterwards that Madame Leone would
have been by no means able to offer a reward so large as a thousand
ducats for the recovery of her child. Happily during the crossing Guido
engrossed all his attention. Terrified by everything around him, he
cried violently for his mother, and refused to be comforted; so that
a child’s tears drew away the eyes of Henri from the agonized faces of
strong men, who were looking up to Heaven with their last appeal for
mercy ere they sank to rise no more.

Scarcely had the boat touched the opposite bank of the stream, when a
lady ran down to meet it, and stretched out her arms to receive the
boy. But the next moment a cry of bitter disappointment rang through
the air. This was not _her_ child--not the darling for whose recovery
she had offered all her golden store. The broken-hearted mother turned
away, and Henri saw her no more. Still holding Guido in his arms, he
followed listlessly and mechanically the stream of fugitives who were
taking the road to Vilna.



CHAPTER XXII.

THE AIDE-DE-CAMP OF ST. PRIEST.

  “You would not let your little finger ache
  For such as these?
                    But I would _die_, said he.”


The miserable fugitives who succeeded, at the cost of so much
suffering, in crossing the icy waters of the Beresina, found no
“promised land” on the other side. Better had it been if with one
accord they had laid down their arms on the banks of that fatal river,
and surrendered to the mercy of the enemy. The horrors that awaited
them well-nigh cast into oblivion those they had already passed
through, and filled to absolute overflowing the cup of trembling put
into their hands. Until then the cold had not exceeded that of the
ordinary winter of those regions; but during that terrible month of
December it grew ever more and more intense, until it reached a pitch
of severity almost beyond precedent. A silent, invisible, invincible
enemy, it mowed down the ranks of strong men with a pitiless scythe,
sparing neither the young recruit nor the hardened veteran who had
passed unscathed through all the sufferings of the preceding campaign.

Henri de Talmont was at first only conscious of one definite purpose,
that of keeping his little charge from perishing with cold. If he
could but bring him alive to Vilna, perhaps he might find Madame Leone
there and restore him to her. Seeing that a crowd had gathered about
a carriage which had been overturned, and which they were plundering
of its contents, he joined it in the hope of obtaining some provisions
for the way. With more consideration for Guido’s tastes than for his
own, he seized eagerly upon a small bag of sugar and a box of chocolate
bonbons. He afterwards made use of the chocolate as a bribe to induce
the little one to run along by his side, for he was scarcely strong
enough to carry him. But the poor little fellow was unable to endure
the piercing cold, and cried piteously to be taken up again in his
arms. Weak though he was himself, Henri could not resist the appeal;
but it hastened the inevitable moment when, utterly overcome with
fatigue, he was fain to lie down and rest, even at the risk of rising
again no more.

So many broken and abandoned properties of all kinds strewed the way
that it was not difficult to contrive a sort of shelter for the night.
A disabled gun-carriage and a couple of cloaks served Henri as a tent
for himself and Guido, whom he folded to his breast as warmly as he
could, and both were soon fast asleep.

The intense, biting chill that preceded the dawn awakened Henri. “My
poor little Guido is very cold,” he thought; “I must wrap him up
better;” and he took the coverings from himself to fold them more
closely about his charge. The child did not waken, nor even stir; nor
did any increase of external warmth remove the icy chill from those
little limbs. Henri grew alarmed, and thought at last that he ought
to awaken him and give him some nourishment. But all his efforts were
in vain. That wintry night Christ had called a little child to come
to him from the frozen plain. Gentle was the call and silent the
response,--the young spirit passed away in sleep, without struggle and
without suffering.

Black despair fell upon Henri then. There seemed no use in making any
further struggle for life. All around him were dead or dying; all
whom he had known during the long agony of the retreat from Moscow
had yielded to their doom. Féron was dead--Rougeard was dead, as he
believed--the dying face of many another comrade rose before him--and
now, this child. How was he better than they?

Before he lay down to sleep he had prayed for himself and for
Guido. The little one also had clasped his baby hands and lisped in
his soft Italian a prayer that they might find his mother on the
morrow. But beside that still, fair form--almost as white as the
snow around it, and consecrated with the twofold beauty of childhood
and of death--Henri breathed no prayer. Not then, nor for many days
afterwards. It was no use, he said in his heart.

Still he wandered on--in cold, in hunger, in weariness. Hope was
gone, memory had almost left him; nothing remained but that desperate
clinging to life, which is scarcely more than the instinct of an
animal. The path he had to follow was strewn with the dead bodies of
his comrades; and upon these he sometimes found a little bread, or a
small quantity of wine or spirits. On more than one occasion he warmed
his freezing limbs by crouching beneath the corpse of a fellow-sufferer
in whom the vital spark was only just extinct. He could not have
survived at all but for the sugar and the chocolate that he had
obtained for Guido. These, though he knew it not, afforded precisely
the kind of nutriment best adapted to sustain life under intense
cold.[43]

He was seldom conscious of any sensations but those of the body. He
was always cold, always hungry, always in pain; only sometimes this
never-ceasing, never-ending sense of pain was lightened by a kind of
dull satisfaction, as when he found food, or slept, or felt a little
warmer than usual. Occasionally a comrade would hail him, and inquire
his name and whither he was going. Henri hardly knew what he answered.
Sometimes he would talk incoherently; at other times he would reply
correctly enough--say he was going to Vilna--and in his turn ask
questions about the road. He noticed that some of those whom he met
stared at him vacantly, or with the fierce glare of insanity; when he
spoke they would give him wild and wandering answers, or perhaps even
threaten him with violence. Once a miserable being, looking like a
spectre, stood and gazed at him in silence, until he asked him what he
wanted. “Nothing,” answered he, with a strange, sad smile,--“nothing; I
am a dead man.”[44]

There were moments, perhaps hours, when Henri’s crushed intelligence
seemed to revive, and he regained the power of thought and feeling. But
these seasons were the most terrible of all. His soul was fast bound
in misery and iron. It was hard with despair as the ground beneath
his feet with the frost of winter. If he thought of his mother--he
“would never see her again; and what did it matter? She had never
forgiven--never would forgive him now.” Of Clémence--“she was so good!
She would be very happy in her religion, in her pious books, in her
good works. No doubt she was happy enough even now, though her one
brother was dying miserably of cold and hunger by the side of a Polish
road. Clémence would only say, ‘It is the will of God.’”

The will of God! That was the bitterest thought of all. His will was
inexorable. There was no use in prayer. Henri had tried prayer, and had
not been heard. God did not care for him. He sat on his throne, far
above yonder cold, gray, pitiless wintry sky,--as cold, and yet more
pitiless. This was his hand, his vengeance; by his inscrutable decree
half a million of men were dying in torture, because he was angry with
Napoleon Buonaparte.

Sometimes he thought it was not his will, but only a terrible chance.
Sometimes it seemed easier to believe, with most of his comrades, that
there was no God, no Being who shaped the destinies of the human race.
Practically, at least, there was none for him; none to whom it mattered
whether he lived or died. Then the whole subject would pass from him
and be forgotten in the absorbing interest of his quest for food.
Something to allay the pangs of hunger had to be sought for, very much
as the wild beast seeks for its prey.

How long this dreary life in death continued Henri never knew. But
it had an end at last, like all suffering on this side of the grave.
One day he found himself in what was evidently the melancholy and
abandoned ruin of a once beautiful pleasure-ground. The pitiless frost
had done its part to blight and to destroy; but the yet more pitiless
hand of man had left its deeper traces. A castle, once fit for a royal
residence, but now dismantled and partly burned, completed the picture
of desolation.

All at once, as revealed by a lightning flash, Henri recalled the
past. Could this indeed be Zakret--the splendid summer residence, with
beautiful gardens, which the Czar had purchased just before the war?
Only six months had passed since Henri wandered with genuine pleasure
amidst its shady walks, and admired its magnificent conservatories
filled with rare exotics, its terraces gay with the bloom of a thousand
summer flowers. He even remembered the exasperation he had felt at the
conduct of his fellow-soldiers, who wasted all that wealth of beauty
with reckless, malicious hands, because it belonged to their enemy the
Czar. “He is well avenged,” thought Henri. “We did not dream that he
would have proved himself so strong.”

Another thought came then. Zakret was close to Vilna, the goal for
the present of his weary wanderings. The idea lent his worn frame a
momentary strength; he would get up, and go there immediately. He had
thrown himself upon a seat--some broken masonry belonging to what had
once been a beautiful fountain--but now he rose quickly, and tried to
walk. But the effort proved too much for him; he tottered, slipped upon
the frozen ground, fell, and utterly lost consciousness.

When he recovered from his long and death-like swoon, he found
everything changed around him. Instead of the wintry sky, he saw above
him a lofty vaulted roof. The light was dim, but sufficient to reveal
the scene. The floor was covered, or rather crowded with prostrate
forms; in some places they lay in heaps. He stretched out his hand, and
touched the form nearest him; it was cold as ice, and in his horror
at the thought that he was surrounded by the dead, he uttered a weak,
agonized cry.

Several heads were raised at this, and eyes, bright with fever or dim
with the mists of approaching death, gazed at him in a kind of dull
surprise.

“Where am I?” he asked feebly.

Some one dressed in a ragged French uniform, and carrying a large
pitcher filled with snow, approached the place where he lay. “In
prison,” he said. “They brought you in a while ago with some other sick
men.”

“Are you a warder?” pursued Henri.

“You insult me! Can’t you see my uniform? I am, like yourself, a
prisoner and a Frenchman. But those of us who are still passably strong
are allowed to go down to the court and gather snow for the rest.”

He was prevented from adding more by the clamour of the sick men
around. All who were able to speak begged in piteous accents for a
portion of the snow, holding out cups and other small vessels to
receive it.

Henri was more conscious at the moment of hunger than of thirst. “Is
there any food?” he asked in a faint voice.

A piece of hard biscuit was pushed towards him, and he took it
eagerly. Then half-a-dozen hands were extended, and as many voices
spoke to him--“Take my biscuit, and give me in exchange your next cup
of snow-water.”

Henri ate a little, moistening his biscuit with the snow-water; but
bitter experience had taught him moderation. Then, forgetting that he
was no longer a famished fugitive fighting for the necessaries of life,
he began, from habit, to conceal the remainder about his person.

A harsh, bitter laugh, from the man who brought in the snow, made him
look up. “No need to hide what nobody wants,” said he. “Biscuit is the
only thing we have in plenty here--except death.”

“Can this indeed be Vilna?” Henri asked with a bewildered look.

His informant nodded.

“Then where is the army--the Emperor? How comes it that we are
prisoners?”

“The army?--gone like the snow I brought in just now. The
Emperor?--safe in Paris by this time. If it will be a comfort to you in
your dying moments to know that his Imperial Majesty ‘never was better
in all his life,’ I have the satisfaction of affording it. He announced
the fact in his last bulletin.”

Henri stirred uneasily, and cast a mournful glance around him. All that
met his senses was foul and loathsome in the extreme. The atmosphere
of the place was “at once icy and pestilential;” and the whole, the
sick, the dying, and the dead, lay heaped together promiscuously.
Dead bodies, or mutilated portions of them, were piled together in
the windows, a ghastly defence against the bitter wintry wind; while
every noxious odour, every hideous and revolting sight that accompanies
disease and death, filled the vaults and corridors of the spacious
building, making it one vast and dreary charnel-house.

“This is horrible!” he murmured.

“Nothing could be worse. No beds--no straw even--no fire, no wine, no
medicine--nothing but rations of hard biscuit, and the snow we can find
for ourselves in the court.”

“The Russians, since we are their prisoners, ought to treat us with
more humanity,” said Henri.

“The Russians, my boy, have as much as they can do to take care of
their own sick and wounded. As for us, hundreds of famished wretches
are brought in here every day, until there is no more room in which
to lay them down to die. This building which is now our prison, the
Convent of St. Basil, will soon be our grave. That is one comfort. Our
miseries will be quickly ended. The hospital fever has broken out.”

“Typhus fever?” said Henri with a look of horror.

“Even so; we are dying fast. Every day we have to carry out the dead
bodies, or to throw them from the windows.”

“Are there no physicians?”

“Physicians? What should bring them _here_? It is death to enter
these doors. Not the very Poles themselves, who were so loud in their
acclamations when we came here six months ago--who called us their
brothers, their deliverers--would dare to bring us now so much as a cup
of cold water. Even the guards die who are stationed to watch us. We
shall soon be left unguarded. Then we may go out free if we like--only
none of us will be alive to go.”

Henri covered his face. He was utterly crushed. He seemed no longer to
feel, to care for anything--a numb chill despair lay like a weight of
lead upon his heart.

After what might have been, for aught he knew, a considerable time, he
was aroused from his stupor by the sound of voices, and interested,
in spite of himself, by what reached his ear. Some one was pleading
earnestly with another in the accents of a soft musical tongue, which
at first he took for Italian, like Guido’s, but he soon found that he
could not understand the words spoken. However, the speakers presently
relapsed into French, and then he easily gathered that one of them, a
Spaniard, dying of the cruel hospital fever, was entreating his French
comrade to write for him a letter of farewell to his wife. Evidently
the feelings of the Frenchman were touched. Henri saw him tear a leaf
from a book which he had with him, and write upon it at the dictation
of the Spaniard, and in his language. “Though where is the use?” he
heard him say to one near him in a lower tone. “Poor fellow! there is
none to send it for him.”

By-and-by another pitcher of snow was brought in by Henri’s first
acquaintance, whose name was Pontet.

When with some difficulty he had distributed the coveted refreshment
among its many eager and agonized claimants, he said briefly, as he set
down his pitcher, “I have news.”

Heads were raised and eyes were turned towards him, but for the most
part languidly; suffering had well-nigh killed desire and hope--even
fear was scarcely felt.

“The Emperor is come,” said Pontet. In that word there was a spell
potent enough to arouse the dying. On every side exclamations
arose--“Come back! Retaken the town! Stolen a march upon them all! Ah,
what joy! What a triumph!” and one voice, weak but courageous, raised
the old well-remembered cry, “Vive Napoléon!”

“Hush, you fools!” said Pontet sharply. “Napoleon is far enough away.
Do you think there is no other Emperor in the world? I am speaking of
the Emperor Alexander.”

Bitter was the disappointment, especially to dying hearts. Pontet came
in for sundry curses, feeble but emphatic, and one sick man flung
his cup at him. “How dare you raise our hopes only to dash them so
cruelly?” he cried.

“I had more to tell,” Pontet continued; “but if you care not to listen,
I can spare my breath.”

“Tell us, friend, tell us,” spoke two or three voices together.

“I have made a friend amongst the guards who knows a little French, and
is disposed to be communicative. He says the Czar has appointed General
St. Priest governor and guardian of all the prisoners.”

“St. Priest!--Who is he?”

“A Frenchman in the service of Russia. _Because_ he is a Frenchman this
office has been given him. My comrades, this looks well.”

“Nothing looks well now but the grave,” said the man who cried “Vive
Napoléon.”

“Pontet,” he continued, “I don’t think much of your news. St. Priest
may be a Frenchman, but then he must be a pretty rascal, to fight
against France.”

“Well, we shall see.”

“What is that noise?” asked Henri, as the loud rattling of an iron
chain was heard.

“They are only swinging the great lamp up to its place, where it hangs
from the roof. How early they are lighting it to-night! It will be
daylight in the court for another hour.”

After this Henri fell into a troubled, uneasy sleep. When he awoke,
there was a general stir around him, and a murmur of suppressed
excitement. “What is the matter?” he asked of Pontet, who was sitting
near him, resting his head on his hand.

He looked up to answer the question. “The guards say Monsieur de St.
Priest is coming to visit us.”

“He must be a brave man,” said Henri.

“Ay de mi!” murmured the Spaniard. “If I _dare_ but ask him to send
that letter! Ah, Teresa mia!” Tears stole into his dying eyes as that
beloved face arose before him in its dark, well-remembered beauty; and
once more his little children seemed to climb about his knees, while
the orange-tree beside his cottage door shed its fragrant blossoms over
him.

“Hush!” said those around--“hush! here comes Monsieur le Général.”

St. Priest came slowly, threading his way through the thick ranks of
sick men stretched upon the ground. His look was absorbed and anxious;
some great care seemed to oppress him. Pontet whispered, “See how he is
leaving the work to his aide-de-camp.”

For all observed that the companion of St. Priest paused continually,
and, bending low over the sufferers, spoke in turn to each, patiently
waiting for an answer. Those near him noticed also with surprise that
Frenchmen, Poles, and Germans were addressed with equal fluency, each
in his own tongue.

As he approached, the good-natured Frenchman who had written the
Spaniard’s letter for him whispered, “Try the aide-de-camp. He looks
kind.”

Thus encouraged, the dying man stretched out his worn and fevered hand.
“For the love of God, Monsieur l’Aide de camp,” he prayed in his broken
French, “take this letter and send it for me. It is my last farewell to
my dear wife.”

“That letter shall reach its destination,” was the answer, uttered in a
tone of deep feeling; and stooping over the prostrate form, the speaker
added some gentle words of hope and consolation.

As his tall figure resumed its erect position, the lamplight shone upon
his face, revealing it to Henri. It was a noble, refined, sensitive
face, pale with uttermost horror and loathing at the abominations
around, though the revolt of the shrinking nerves and senses was
crushed down by a strong will, and a look of profound compassion and
sympathy effaced every other expression. Instinctively Henri raised
himself, and, resting on his elbow, gazed at him with a hungry longing
in his heart that to him--even to him also--he would address so much as
a single word. At the same moment the stranger’s pitying eye fell upon
his young, sad, wasted face. “Et toi aussi, pauvre enfant,” he said
with tenderness, bending down once more and touching Henri’s forehead
gently with his hand.

Henri seized the hand in his and pressed it to his lips. “Speak to me
so again,” he cried, “and I verily believe I shall not die, but live!”

His prayer was granted. He was spoken to, or rather spoken _with_,
until St. Priest drew near, and with an anxious air _entreated_, not
commanded, his companion to hasten onwards.

Then Henri covered his face with his thin hands and wept
quietly--almost the first tears he had shed since leaving Moscow. The
gentle shower softened the hard soil of his heart, the flood-gates
were thrown open, the fountains of the great deep were unloosed, and
the shower became a storm. “Mother, mother!” he sobbed piteously, “O
mother!” Wild and passionate was the longing that swept him to see her
face again, hers and his sister’s. He thought of the old days--of his
happy childhood, of the love and tenderness that used to surround him;
and every thought unlocked afresh the source of tears. He wept until he
could weep no more.

Meanwhile, Pontet followed the visitors as far as he could, and then
spoke to the guard at the door. He came back with a beaming countenance
and a manner full of suppressed excitement. “Wonderful news, my
comrades!” he began eagerly. “Guess, if you can, who it is that has
been among us--that we took for the aide-de-camp of M. de St. Priest?”

“It was an angel from heaven,” murmured one poor sufferer, lifting up a
face flushed with fever. “There was light--rest while he was here. Oh,
if he could but have stayed! The darkness is coming back now.”

“He has left the light with _me_,” said the Spaniard. “God must have
sent him here, his messenger, to fulfil my last wish.”

“But his name, his name?” cried the eager Pontet,--“no one has guessed
that yet. Will you try, or shall I tell you? But if I do, you will not
believe me.”

“Tell us, tell us,” cried half-a-score of voices.

“The aide-de-camp of St. Priest was no other than our great enemy--our
conqueror, Alexander, Emperor of Russia!”

His auditors were utterly incredulous. “Have you lost your senses,
Pontet?” they cried; “or have the guards been mocking you and us? Not
a physician, not a nurse even, would enter here were a fortune offered
as a bribe; and do you expect us to believe that the Czar, our enemy,
would risk his life--_for us_?”

“Listen,” answered Pontet; “the guards have told me all. He has spent
the whole day going through the other hospitals;--at last he came here.
M. de St. Priest, knowing well how the deadly hospital fever is raging
amongst us, entreated, implored him not to enter. He would not listen.
Then the general, in a kind of desperation, flung himself before the
door, and, daring his sovereign to his face, told him he should enter
only over his body. The Czar put him gently aside and walked in; and
I tell you, comrades, there is not a nook or corner in all this den
of horrors that he has not thoroughly explored. There was no hiding
anything from him. I take it, things will be altered with us from this
time forth. My friends, if there is any man amongst you happy enough
still to believe in God, let him thank him this night for sending the
Emperor Alexander here.”

When the comments made by others upon this speech had died away, Henri
raised his quivering, tear-stained face and said gently, but with a new
air of courage and firmness, “Pontet, _I_ believe in God; and I thank
him--as you say.” After a pause he added, “Dear comrades, if you will
listen, I should like to tell you how it is with me; for, perhaps, some
other poor lad may even now be struggling and suffering in darkness, as
I have been.”

“Say on,” cried several voices.

“When I was wandering through the snow, in hunger, in misery, in
despair, almost in madness, I lost my faith in God;--perhaps because
I never had the right kind of faith, because I only believed that he
was great and just, without believing that he was _my_ God. I fainted
utterly. I thought either that he was not, or that there was with him
no love, no compassion. I thought his pitiless hand was sweeping us
all from the face of the earth, because he was angry with Napoleon. I
thought he was like the great fire in Moscow, which burned, blazed,
destroyed, unchecked by human efforts, unstayed by human prayers. May
he forgive me! To-night I can believe in his forgiveness and in his
divine compassion. If the man who was our enemy--whose land we tried to
ruin, upon whom we heaped every insult, every injury in our power--can
pity and forgive us, surely the God who made him will not be found less
merciful than he! Surely none but that God could so have softened the
proud heart of the Czar; and perhaps he has done it just to show that
even for those who have sinned deeply, wilfully, like me, there is
forgiveness with Him. Therefore let us hope in the Lord; for with the
Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.”

There were murmurs of assent from the pale lips of many of the
sufferers around him; and Pontet observed, with a thoughtful air, “The
lad speaks well; and perhaps what he says may be true. Who knows?”[45]



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE MOSCOW MEDAL.

  “Now glory to the Lord of Hosts, from whom all glories are!”


The very next day Henri de Talmont was removed from the horrible
Convent of St. Basil to one of the other hospitals of the town--in
which, indeed, every palace, every public building sufficiently large,
was now being transformed into a hospital. As he passed through
the streets, he observed that large fires were burning in all the
thoroughfares; and the Russian physician who took charge of the party
of invalids told them this was done to purify the air and to destroy
infection.

A delicious sensation of rest stole over the weary frame of Henri when
at last he found himself lying on a comfortable pallet, in a clean,
well-warmed room. Nourishment sufficient for his need and suitable to
his weak condition was given him with a willing hand. He had escaped
the deadly hospital fever, but the prostration of his strength was
excessive, the vital forces seemed exhausted. For many days he lay in
a kind of contented apathy, slumbering continually, and even when not
asleep floating in hazy dreams amongst vague remembrances of the past.
Once or twice he roused himself sufficiently to make some inquiry after
his fellow-sufferers. “Be at rest,” said his nurse. “All are cared for
now; just as well as the wounded Russians.” But he used to waken up
thoroughly whenever the Emperor came to inspect the hospital where he
lay. He would watch with pathetic eagerness for a word, even for a
look, from him, and live upon the recollection until his next visit.
To most of the other French prisoners the person of their benefactor
remained unknown; and as Alexander moved in and out amongst them,
listening to their complaints, ministering to their needs, and speaking
words of comfort, they took him generally for the aide-de-camp of St.
Priest.

One day Henri, feeling rather stronger than usual, observed with
interest a handsome, splendidly-equipped young Russian, who had come to
visit one of his countrymen in the same ward. The conversation, carried
on in their own language, was unintelligible to Henri; but something
in the face of the visitor touched a chord of memory. The Russian,
seeing the sick Frenchman look at him earnestly, and as he thought
imploringly, came to his side and asked kindly in French, “Can I do
anything for you?”

“No, sir, no; I thank you. I have everything I want. Stay though,” he
added with a slight increase of animation; “I should like to know, if
you will be good enough to tell me, how the Grand Duke is to-day.”

Strange to say, the eccentric, passionate Constantine, at other times
even wantonly cruel, was now so wrought upon by the example and
influence of the brother he adored that he emulated his works of mercy,
and had actually caught the hospital fever in his ministrations to the
prisoners. Alexander himself seemed to bear a charmed life through
every peril; for God fulfilled unto his servant the word upon which he
had caused him to hope: “A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten
thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.”

The Russian answered, “He is much better. Dr. Wylie has pronounced him
out of danger. You know Dr. Wylie?”

“Yes; he comes here often. He examined me one day, and said he would
like to bleed me, only I was too weak.”

The Russian could not suppress a smile. “You enjoyed a most unusual
exemption,” he said. “Dr. Wylie’s lancet is not easily escaped. But I
hope, as you _have_ been so fortunate, that you are growing stronger?”

“I scarcely know. I ought to be; for I am not in pain, not hungry, not
cold. All that is so strange now, so pleasant. But, pardon me, have I
not seen your face before? Where can it have been?”

“I do not remember yours,” was the answer. That was not wonderful;
for Henri was a melancholy shadow of his former self, with ghastly,
shrunken features, and frame reduced to a skeleton. The hardships of
a very severe campaign had told also upon Ivan Pojarsky, but in a
different way; he looked bronzed and weather-beaten, and much older
than he really was.

“I remember now,” Henri resumed after a pause. “I saw you during the
Occupation, in a church in Moscow. After the service some Russians
attacked me, and I might have been killed, but for that brave fellow
with one hand. He appealed to you, and you protected me. Ah!” he added
with a sigh, “if I had known then what sufferings were before me, I
might have prayed you to plunge your sword into my breast!”

“I am glad to find you amongst the living,” Ivan said kindly.

“And that day,” mused Henri, “was little more than three months ago,
while it is but two since we left Moscow. Were there ever two such
months since the beginning of the world?”

“Of suffering?--I think not,” said Ivan thoughtfully, as he took a seat
beside him.

“Of suffering for us, of glory for _you_. How you must triumph, you
Russians! Five months ago Napoleon crossed your border with half a
million of men; and now the miserable remains of that splendid host
are dying in your hospitals, pensioners of your bounty. Surely such an
overthrow was never seen since Pharaoh and his armies perished in the
waters of the Red Sea!”

“How we triumph, we Russians!” Ivan repeated. “Should you like to know
how? Our Emperor said the other day in confidence to a friend, ‘This
miserable campaign has cost me ten years of my life!’”

“_Miserable!_ when it has been for him and his one long glorious
victory!”

“True; but the sufferings he has witnessed have well-nigh broken his
heart.”

“The sufferings _of his enemies_,” said Henri, as tears filled his eyes.

“They have so cast our own into the shade, that we ourselves almost
forget them. Yet you must not think we have suffered nothing. Remember
Moscow, our beautiful, our holy city; remember Borodino and the other
battles in which the best blood of our country was poured out like
water. Moreover, the ice-king has thinned our ranks as well as yours.”

“Ah! not so fatally.”

“No; we had wholesome food, and warm clothing, and care and comforts
for the sick. As a rule, our invalids recovered, while yours died.
Yes, oh yes, God has surely given us a great deliverance; would it
had been at less cost to others! Look here, monsieur,”--Ivan took a
silver medal, new and bright, from his neck, where it hung attached to
a sky-blue ribbon. “The Czar has just given one of these to every man
who has borne part in this winter’s campaign, from the general to the
youngest recruit.”

Henri examined it with interest. One side bore a Triangle surrounded by
rays, and in its centre an Eye.

“What does that mean?” he inquired.

“It is, with us, the symbol of the Divine Presence,” Ivan answered,
crossing himself. “It typifies the All-seeing and Ever-present--the
Three in One. Beneath, you read ‘1812,’ the ever-memorable year when He
himself interposed to deliver us. Now, turn the other side.”

Henri did so, and saw, though he could not read, an inscription in the
old Slavonic tongue.

“That is, translated literally, ‘_Not us! not us! but His Name!_’
In your French Bible--the same which I use also--the verse reads
thus:--‘Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give
glory.’”

“Beautiful!” said Henri; and as he gave back the medal, he looked with
interest at the brilliant young Guardsman, who spoke in such a simple,
manly, unaffected way of God’s Word and Providence.

“To-morrow the Czar leaves this,” said Ivan, replacing his medal. “We
of the Chevalier Guard go also, of course.”

Henri’s cry of distress made all the sick men in the ward raise their
heads.

“What is the matter?” Ivan asked compassionately.

“The Emperor is going!” Henri said, or rather sobbed, for so weak was
he that he could not restrain his tears.

“You need not be afraid that will change anything, my poor friend.
He has made arrangements for the safety and the comfort of all the
prisoners. Henceforth they will want for nothing.”

“I was not afraid of wanting food or shelter,” Henri said. “But, M. le
Garde, when I lay in that horrible prison, dying in black despair, it
was _his_ voice called me back from the gates of the grave, and showed
me what the mercy of God was like. I would give half the little life
left in me to hear that voice yet once again.” After a pause he added,
with an effort to control himself, “Still, he stayed among us longer
than we could have dared to hope. Is he going home now?”

Ivan shook his head. “His work is not half done yet; nor ours,” he said.

“What will you fight for now?” asked Henri with a sad smile. “For
vengeance?”

“For _peace_,” returned Ivan. “Shall I tell you what the Czar says
about that? He speaks without anger or bitterness of your Emperor.”

“Call him not _mine_,” Henri interrupted, with a flush on his pale
cheek. “Mine he never was. I am a Royalist.”

“Well, then, of Napoleon. ‘What a brilliant career,’ said the Czar,
‘that man might have run! He could have given peace to Europe--he could
have done it; and he has not. Now the charm is broken.’”

“At least you Russians cannot regret that,” said Henri with enthusiasm;
“for the olive crown of the peace-maker which Napoleon has put aside
awaits the brow of Alexander.”

“So said the friend to whom the Czar was speaking.[46] ‘If only peace
is made,’ was his answer, ‘what does it matter by whom, whether by him,
or by me, or by another?’ It is a good time to think of peace,” Ivan
added. “To-morrow will be Christmas day, when peace and good-will upon
earth were sung by the angels.”

“To-morrow?” repeated Henri. “Am I dreaming? Surely I remember noticing
that one of the first blessed, restful days I spent here was Christmas
day.”

“You forget,” said Ivan with a smile, “that we Russians are behind
the Western world by twelve days. Our Christmas is your feast of the
Epiphany. After divine service to-morrow, the Czar begins his journey,
and we follow.”

“You do not accompany him?”

“No; he travels with far greater speed than we could do. For guards he
never cares anything.”

“Strange,” said Henri--“strange; and how perilous! Think of the
country, overrun by war, swarming with stragglers from the army, with
desperate characters of every kind!”

“He has no fears,” returned Ivan; “nor we for him. Even our
white-haired general, with all the caution of his seventy years,
answered to some one who spoke as you do, ‘Who could have the courage
to harm him?’[47] But, my friend, I must go now, for it is late.
Accept my best wishes for your recovery.” He clasped Henri’s hand
warmly, and contrived to leave in it a few pieces of gold. Henri tried
to remonstrate, but was quickly silenced. “Soldiers always help one
another; that is a matter of course. If you like,” added Ivan, with
a touch of playful malice, “you can repay me after the first French
victory. Good-bye.”

“What a fine young fellow!” thought Ivan as he left the hospital; “so
grateful and so patient. And I have forgotten even to ask his name!
How thoughtless of me! Too late to return now. But I am sure he is
well born, particularly since he calls himself a Royalist. Probably he
belongs to one of those noble families of the old _régime_ Napoleon
delights to oppress and humble.”

Over Ivan himself great changes had passed, and were passing even then.
Perhaps his share in the foregoing conversation has already indicated
these with sufficient clearness; if not, his conduct during the events
that have yet to follow may complete the picture.

Amongst the works of faith and love which in all ages have been
inspired by the precepts and the example of “the forgiving Christ,” the
labours of Alexander on behalf of his perishing enemies undoubtedly
deserve a place. It is good for the world to keep such deeds in
remembrance, although to those who do them the world’s remembrance may
avail but little. It was not the motive that inspired, nor will it be
the reward that crowns them.

A few years later, at Cherson in the Crimea, Alexander stood beside
the grave of a philanthropist whose character and work he held in
genuine veneration--John Howard, the prisoners’ friend. With his own
hand he designed a monument to mark the resting-place of Christ’s
honoured servant, choosing for its sole inscription those words of
Christ himself--“I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and
you came unto me.” “Where the kings of the nations lie in glory, every
one in his own house,” the Czar Alexander Paulovitch has his stately
sleeping-place; and well might it bear the same inscription. No human
hand has placed it there; but we doubt not Divine lips will one day
utter the commendation, “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the
least of these, you have done it unto Me.”



CHAPTER XXIV.

ONE YEAR AFTERWARDS.

  “War is mercy, glory, fame,
    Fought in Freedom’s holy cause,
  Freedom such as man may claim
    Under God’s restraining laws.”

            WORDSWORTH.


Between opening month of 1813 and that of the following year a great
change swept over Europe. Men of Teutonic race, true-hearted sons
of their dear Fatherland, look back upon that era with honourable
pride. They talk with enthusiasm of “the war of liberation,” telling
gratefully beside their hearths, or by the vine-clad banks of their
glorious “German Rhine,” how prince and peasant armed for the fight,
and flung from them the intolerable yoke of the foreign oppressor.
Körner’s patriotic lyrics thrilled every heart, and many another
tuneful voice, then and since, has chanted the pæan of Germany’s
deliverance,--

  “How the crowned eagle spread again
    His pinion to the sun;
  And the strong land shook off its chain,
    So was the triumph won.”

But there are other heroes besides the pre-Homeric of whom it may be
said,--

  “They had no bard, and died.”

In that memorable battle fought long ago in the valley of Elah, we are
told how the men of Israel arose with a great shout, and rushing upon
their Philistine oppressors, chased them with tremendous slaughter to
the very gates of their own fastnesses. It was a glorious victory; but
it would scarcely have been won at all if the Hebrew champion had not
first slain Goliath “in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of the
armies of Israel.” In like manner the battle of the deliverance of
Europe was really fought and won upon the frozen plains of Russia.

The early days of 1813 found the Russian hosts upon the frontiers
of their own country. Within that country, through the blessing of
God upon their valour and constancy, not an enemy remained except in
captivity. By the first month of 1814 the still victorious armies
of the Czar had reached the boundaries of France. That unhappy land
seemed now about to suffer what she, or her rulers, had once and again
inflicted upon others. “Woe to thee that spoilest, and thou wast not
spoiled; and dealest treacherously, and they dealt not treacherously
with thee! when thou shalt cease to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled; and
when thou shalt make an end to deal treacherously, they shall deal
treacherously with thee.” So has it ever been since the world began:
wrong begets wrong, cruelty engenders cruelty; “they that take the
sword perish with the sword.” It was the hour of retribution. Slavs
and Teutons, whose homes and hearths had been made desolate by French
bayonets, gazed, flushed with triumph, on the fertile plains of France,
and promised themselves and their dead a terrible vengeance. “We will
reward her even as she rewarded us, and the cup which she hath filled
we will fill to her double,” they said in their hearts. It was the
voice of Nature.

But in that hour another voice was heard. “Soldiers,” said Alexander to
the armies of Russia, “your valour and your perseverance have brought
you from the Oka to the Rhine. We are about to enter a country with
which we are waging a sanguinary and obstinate war. The enemy, entering
our empire, brought on us great evils, but suffered for it an awful
punishment. Let us not take example by them; cruelty and ferocity
cannot be pleasing in the eyes of a merciful God. Let us forget their
deeds, and render them, not vengeance and hatred, but friendship, and
a hand stretched out for peace. Such is the lesson taught by our holy
faith. Divine lips have pronounced the command, ‘Love your enemies; do
good to them that hate you.’ Soldiers, I trust that by your moderation
in the enemy’s country you will conquer as much by generosity as by
arms; and, uniting the valour of the soldier against the armed with
the charity of the Christian towards the unarmed, you will crown your
exploits by keeping stainless your well-earned reputation of a brave
and moral people.” This was _not_ the voice of Nature, but of Grace.

But these noble words, did they die upon the ears of those who heard
them, leaving only an echo, faint though musical, to remind them of
the existence of such things as mercy and humanity? or did they really
prove strong enough to restrain the excited passions of a hundred
thousand fighting men? Strange to tell, the voice of Alexander was
obeyed. It was not easy to secure such obedience; it would not have
been even possible, had not he whose lips uttered the command been
passionately loved, as well as feared and honoured. But a touching
proof how well it was secured was given years afterwards. When, through
the length and breadth of Europe, the tidings flashed from lip to lip,
“The Emperor of Russia is dead,” the peasants of the French provinces
through which he marched at the head of a victorious hostile army
crowded unbidden to their churches to offer their humble prayers,
useless indeed but sincere, for the repose of his soul.

Two months of hard fighting brought the Allies from the banks of the
Rhine to those of the Marne, which they crossed on the 28th of March,
and found themselves in the rich and fertile plain that surrounds
Paris. The Chevaliers of the Imperial Guard had borne their full
share in the glories and dangers of the war; for their place was near
the person of a sovereign of whom it was said with truth that “the
only life he ever exposed without reflection was his own.” Their ranks
were sorely thinned: one gallant youth had fallen by a shot from the
same battery as that which killed Moreau, two at Toplitz, others at
Leipzig and elsewhere. But their arms were as bright, their equipages
as splendid, as when they left the banks of the Neva; and their massy
silver cuirasses reflected the sunshine of France from surfaces
as stainless as those which flashed upon the parade-ground of St.
Petersburg.

Ivan Pojarsky was an ensign now--he had won his colours on the banks of
the Elbe--and he wore besides the Order of St. George along with the
Moscow medal on the breast of his crimson tunic. He had escaped without
a wound; but his friend Tolstoi was looking very pale, and had his left
hand in a sling.

As the Chevaliers rode together towards Paris on the evening of the
29th of March, their party was joined by some noble young Prussian
volunteers, their personal friends. One of these, named Schubart,
was vaunting to the Russians the courage and ability of Blucher, and
telling them the story of some of his exploits.

“All that is very well,” said Tolstoi, with a little irritation. “Far
be it from me to deny that Prince Blucher is a brave soldier and a good
general. But where, I ask you, would he be now, but for his Russian
auxiliaries? You know as well as I that his army contains four Russians
for one Prussian. Still,” he pursued, “there is all the difference in
the world between your fine old hero and that Austrian trimmer and
time-server, who, I verily believe, would have us all prisoners in the
camp of Napoleon, if he were left to himself.”

“I am not any more in love with Prince Schwartzenberg than you are,”
said the Prussian; while Ivan whispered to Tolstoi, with a warning
glance, “Take care.”

“Oh yes, I’ll take care,” answered Tolstoi lightly. Then, as a spasm of
pain passed across his face, “What a nuisance this hand is! Lucky it is
not the right one, though.”

“If it had been,” said Ivan, “you would have done as Diebitch did at
Austerlitz--taken the sword in your left, and fought on.”

“I am sorry to see you are wounded,” remarked Schubart. “How was it?”

“Oh, it is nothing,” returned Tolstoi. “I got the hurt three days ago,
in that fight with Pacthod’s corps.”

“A brilliant affair. We have all heard of it,” said the Prussian.

“Ay,” answered Tolstoi; “those Frenchmen fought like demons.”

“Like heroes, you mean,” said Ivan. “Certainly the empire Napoleon
has kept over the hearts of his soldiers is no less than a miracle,
especially when we know how little he would care if all of them were
dead to-morrow, provided he had as good to replace them. It was sixteen
thousand men with guns and cavalry against six thousand without either;
and yet they would not yield to us. Our guns raked their lines. Still
they stood undaunted, resolved to resist to the death. The Czar sent an
aide-de-camp with a flag of truce to them. They shot him dead.”[48]

“Not _very_ chivalrous that,” Schubart interposed.

“No, truly. But how gallantly they fought! They would have kept
their places till they were cut to pieces, man by man. And to that
it must have come, but the Czar would not have it. He called on us
to follow--us of the Chevalier Guard,” said Ivan with a look of
pride--“and dashed headlong into the midst of them, breaking up and
scattering their compact square by the sheer impetus of his charge.
It was a glorious _mêlée_--the grandest I have ever seen. Think of
Pacthod giving his sword into the Czar’s own hand, and not dreaming
until afterwards that the gallant cavalry officer whose courage and
promptitude averted a massacre was the Emperor himself!”[49]

“Ach, wunderschön!” cried Schubart. “Herr Tolstoi, I would take your
wound twice over to have been in the midst of it.”

“Look!” Ivan suddenly exclaimed, pointing to the scene before them.
While absorbed in their eager talk, they had been ascending an
eminence, from the top of which they now caught their first sight
of the magnificent capital of France. The sun had just set, but its
parting beams still lingered upon the gilded dome of the Hôtel des
Invalides and the stately summit of the Pantheon. “Paris! Paris!” was
the exclamation that broke from every lip, and resounded far and wide
in lengthened cries of fierce joy and exultation. “Paris! Paris!” was
shouted again and yet again, as rank after rank of that gallant army
beheld the goal of all their aspirations, the end of all their toils.

After the first involuntary cry Ivan was silent. At length he said
quietly to his friend Tolstoi, “When I think of that terrible
September, the last but one, and of the flames of Moscow, the wonder
and the gladness seem too great, too awful for words.”

“Those flames are burning in many a heart now,” Tolstoi answered.--“I
suppose they will hardly let us in yonder without a struggle,” he added
in an altered tone. “What will to-morrow bring?”



CHAPTER XXV.

“FATHER PARIS FOR MOTHER MOSCOW.”

  “Lay the sword on his breast; there’s no spot on its blade
  In whose cankering breath his bright laurels will fade:
  It was taken up first at humanity’s call;
  It was sheathed with sweet mercy when glory was all.”


The passion and the tumult, the glory and the agony of the next day
will live in History as long as History herself lives to depict the
scenes of blood and violence which earth has witnessed. No battle in
that terrible war was more hotly or more obstinately contested than the
battle of Paris; although it ought to be remembered that it was not
the men of Paris who contested every inch of ground with the Allies,
but the corps of Marmont and Mortier, old soldiers of Napoleon, the
National Guard, and the youths of the Ecole Polytechnique.

The sun that shone upon that long day’s conflict was already near its
setting when Ivan, with the rest of the Chevalier Guard, was still
straining every nerve to drive the French from the Butte de Chaumont,
an important height commanding the city. It is not enough to say that
he fought with gallantry: all did that. He fought as one whose whole
soul was in the work--who was conscious of no thought, no impulse, no
resolve save that Paris must be won for the Czar that day. His horse
was at a gallop; his red sabre was driving the fleeing French before
him; the crest of the hill was reached; the city lay outspread beneath
his feet;--when a well-aimed bullet grazed the top of his silver
cuirass, and passed through his right shoulder. Faint and dizzy, he
still pressed on. To be stopped _now_ would be intolerable. But in
another moment his senses reeled; all things grew dim about him. He had
barely time to thrust the colours which he held into the hand of the
comrade nearest him; then, after clutching vainly at the mane of his
horse, he found himself lying under its hoofs. Immeasurably bitter was
the thrill of disappointment that flashed through him ere consciousness
departed. “I shall _not_ enter Paris with my Czar,” he murmured with
his failing voice. After that he knew nothing.

When he came to himself he was still lying on the ground where he had
fallen. Blood was flowing freely from the wound in his shoulder, but no
hoof of horse had grazed him as he lay--all had passed him by, sparing
the fallen, as those noble and gentle creatures so often do. He heard
voices near him, and to his joy they spoke in _Russian_. Then the Butte
de Chaumont was theirs yet! He raised himself with an effort, and
looked about him. It was night, but lights were blazing all around. A
party of artillery occupied the height which he and his comrades had
won for them, and the gunners were standing, match in hand, beside
their loaded pieces. It was evident that the word of command to fire
upon the city that lay outspread beneath them was expected every
instant. Fierce and eager was the excitement. The passionate, exulting
anticipation which kindled every eye and throbbed in every heart
resounded on all sides in “houras” and “vivas,” while from lip to lip
along the ranks the cry was echoed and re-echoed, “Father Paris, you
shall pay for Mother Moscow!”

A voice near Ivan--a voice that Ivan knew--exclaimed, in tones of
deepest emotion, “Thank God and the saints, we have our revenge this
night for our beautiful and holy city, laid in ashes--ay, and for our
dead, our _murdered_! Anna Popovna, in _thy_ name I send the messenger
of Death into the homes of the infidel Nyemtzi.”

“Michael! Michael Ivanovitch!” Ivan called in a faint and quivering
voice.

Fortunately Michael heard the sound, and moved towards the spot whence
it came. “Great St. Nicholas!” exclaimed he, “it is Barrinka!”

A good soldier always knows what to do for a wounded comrade. Water,
mixed with a little brandy, was quickly borne to the lips of Ivan; and
gladly would Michael have bound the wound himself, only he thought it
right to yield the privilege to some one who had the use of both his
hands. “But what shall we do for linen?” asked the gunner who undertook
the surgeon’s office.

“Here is the very thing we want!” cried Michael, delightedly producing
from his knapsack a clean white cambric handkerchief.

“A token from some fair one, I suppose,” said his comrade with a laugh,
as he took it from his hand.

“A token from some one harder to find,” returned Michael. “From a
Frenchman with a notion of justice and mercy in his head.”

“The Frenchmen shall learn what justice is before the dawn of
to-morrow’s sun,” said the gunner with a dark and angry look.

He bound Ivan’s wound as well as he could, gave him a little more
brandy and water, and then, with Michael’s assistance, placed him on a
kind of couch made of cloaks and blankets. Meanwhile their companions
kindled a fire, the warmth of which proved welcome to all the party.

“I feel quite comfortable now,” said Ivan. “Thank you, my brothers.”

At that moment an exclamation of amazement broke from the entire group.
Upon a pole, on an eminence near them, a white flag was visible through
the darkness. Bitter murmurs, even cries of disappointment, began to be
heard. “Can it be,” cried Michael, “that they are dreaming of a truce
now--now--with the city in our very hands? It must be those accursed
treacherous Austrians or those fools of Prussians who are showing the
white feather. But the Czar will never listen to them--_never_!”

“Never!” eagerly assented all around. “He remembers the flames of
Moscow.”

They were not left long in suspense. Presently an aide-de-camp,
galloping along the lines, brought the orders of the Czar: “Extinguish
your matches. Pile your muskets. The city is about to capitulate.”

The order was obeyed, but with a great and bitter cry, like the cry of
a wild beast that sees his prey escape him. Rage and disappointment
filled every heart to overflowing. Michael flung himself on his knees
beside his now useless gun, covering his face with his one hand, while
the tears rolled down his weather-beaten cheeks.

Touched by his distress, Ivan called him to his side. “What is the
matter, friend?” he asked gently.

“Matter, Barrinka? Matter enough to break the heart of a man who has
marched from Moscow to Paris with only one thought, one hope in his
heart--the hope of vengeance.”

“I cannot blame you, Michael. You have bitter wrongs to avenge.”

“Ay, Barrinka,” answered he, choking down the emotion he did not
wish to betray. “I see nothing day and night but that sweet pale
face with the look of death upon it. Only killing Nyemtzi makes it
go away now and then for a little while. All this time I have been
thinking, perhaps if we kill Nyemtzi enough--kill and destroy them
utterly--_utterly_,” he repeated, sending out the word with a hissing
sound through his clenched teeth, “that face may go or change--change
back again,” he added more gently, “to the old happy look it used to
have in the bygone days when she was my betrothed, before the Nyemtzi
came and ruined everything.”

“I think, Michael, there may be another way to bring the change you
long for,” began Ivan; but Michael interrupted him.

“No!” he cried passionately--“no way but killing Nyemtzi. That is all
the joy left me now upon earth. And the Czar will not let us do it.”

“He will not,” said Ivan. “That is true. Remember, Michael, that he who
forbids it is the Czar Alexander Paulovitch--no one else.”

“If it _were_ any one else,” returned Michael gloomily, “we should tear
him to pieces.”

“What do you suppose has made the Czar forbid it? Ever since we entered
this land of the enemy, he has held back his avenging armies, as one
might hold a bloodhound in the leash from springing on his prey. Is it
that _he_ has no wrongs to revenge; that _he_ has forgotten holy Moscow
and the Kremlin and the outraged tombs of his fathers?”

“‘The Czar is God upon earth,’” said Michael, quoting the proverb of
his people. “He does what he pleases. How could such as I pretend
to understand him?--Are you suffering, Barrinka?” he asked, as Ivan
stirred uneasily and shivered.

“Not much. I think it is the chill before the morning that I feel. Wrap
that cloak around me, please, and give me a little more brandy.”

Michael did so, saying, as he tried to fasten the cloak, “If I had my
other hand, I would do it better for you, Barrinka.”

“You have done it well, my friend; but you must often miss your hand,
and regret its loss.”

“Regret it!” cried Michael with the old enthusiasm flashing from his
eyes. “_Never!_ Did I not give it for the Czar?”

“Michael, listen to me. As you love and honour the Czar, so the Czar
loves and honours _his King_.”

“_His_ king?” repeated Michael, wondering. But a moment afterwards he
made the sign of the cross. “I understand,” he said in a lower voice.

Ivan resumed: “The thought of vengeance may have been dear to him--dear
as was your hand to you--still at the command of his King, and for his
sake, it was surrendered, and that joyfully. You see?”

“I see.” Michael relapsed into silence, and stood gazing thoughtfully
upon the city spread out beneath their feet, and growing every moment
clearer in the dawning light. At last he said, turning once again to
Ivan, “Barrinka, it is true I gave my hand for the Czar. But I never
thought he would care--or even hear of it. He did though; he spoke
to me with his own lips. He thanked me, and said I had been found
faithful. Not _one_ hand, but two, would have been well lost for that.
But will his King speak to the Czar and thank him?”

“Yes,” Ivan answered, “he will, thought I cannot tell how. God has many
ways of speaking to his servants.”

In due time the day broke, and the sun arose over Paris. Then came
relief and refreshment for the troops, and surgical help and care
for the wounded. Then came also the tidings, flashing from rank to
rank, “The capitulation is signed. The city has surrendered _without
conditions_. At half-past three o’clock this morning, the keys of Paris
were placed in the hands of Alexander.”



CHAPTER XXVI.

AT VERSAILLES.

  “A poor man helped by thee shall make thee rich;
  A sick man served by thee shall make thee whole:
  Thou shalt be blessed thyself in every sense
  Of blessing which thou renderest.”


The two years so eventful to others had not passed without change over
the mother and sister Henri de Talmont left sorrowing behind him in the
cottage at Brie. That he had joined the corps of recruits instead of
making his escape soon became known to them. Both were stricken to the
heart; and because this was so, the grief of both was still and silent.
Clémence told her mother Henri’s parting words, upon which a mournful
light was thrown by what followed. But these brought little comfort,
and no tidings since had reached them from the wanderer. As may have
been inferred, the letter intrusted to Seppel was never posted; and
Henri did not write again.

At length came news of the appalling disasters in Russia. Neither
Madame de Talmont nor Clémence indulged the faintest hope that Henri
could have survived them. They mourned for the one who “was not,” in an
utter desolation, beyond words and beyond tears.

Sometimes they murmured sadly to each other, “If only we knew the
truth.” For it was one of the bitterest drops in their full cup of
bitterness that they could not tell in what form death had come to
their beloved, while they knew but too well how hideous and revolting
were some of the forms assumed by the king of terrors. Horrible details
reached them, piercing the thick veil of falsehood with which Napoleon
sought to hide the disasters of his army; and imagination--that
magician so powerful for good and evil--exercised a fearful ingenuity
in torturing their aching hearts to the uttermost.

These were pangs they endured in common; but each had besides her
solitary burden of pain. That of the mother was tinged with something
like the bitterness of remorse. She had been wroth with her boy for
deceiving her and betraying the cause she held dearer than life. Pride
and anger had kept her back from obeying the first impulse of her heart
when she heard of him as amongst the conscripts who left the village.
She thought of hastening after him to Paris, that he might not go forth
to die without his mother’s pardon and her blessing. But she put the
thought aside. The difficulties in her way would have been very great,
yet it was not these that deterred her. It was the persuasion that
he did not deserve this sacrifice at her hands--that the first step
towards a reconciliation ought to come from him. If he wished for it,
why had he not written?--But now everything was changed. With vain
tears that had no healing in them the broken-hearted mother mourned
over “the irrevocable past.”

Clémence too had her lonely sorrow. Deeply thoughtful and truly pious,
after the strong, stern, self-sacrificing Jansenist fashion, she knew
too well that her brother’s young heart had never truly surrendered
itself to its Creator and Redeemer. The “Except ye be converted” of the
Divine Teacher held as real a place in the creed of Clémence as in that
of any Protestant; nor, under the circumstances, could the Catholic
belief in sacramentary grace interpose its soft, misleading glamour
between her eyes and the truth. So her soul went down to the depths
of a sorrow without hope; depths that few are strong enough to sound,
and those who do sound them seldom tell what they find there. Some,
it may be, bring back from thence secrets of divine love, “treasures
of the deep that lieth under,” worth all they have passed through to
learn them. But it was not so with Clémence. She brought no pearls with
her from the deeps of ocean. It was much if she herself came back, or
rather _drifted_ back, forlorn and weary, because mind and body were no
longer strong enough to bear the strain of intense emotion. She said in
her heart,--as poor Henri thought she would do all too easily,--“It is
the will of God;” but she never truly said, “Thy will be done.” Perhaps
she made her heavy burden heavier by asking from herself what God never
asked from her; forgetting that it is _not_ his will that any sinner
should perish, and that Christ himself wept tears of divine compassion
over lost souls. So her own faith grew dim and clouded, until even the
sense of personal love to God seemed to vanish away, and with it the
trust in his love to her; for, unhappily, her creed did _not_ teach her
that his love to his chosen and adopted is “everlasting.”

In the course of time an outward change was mercifully sent to break up
the current of those two sorrowful lives. A widowed sister of Madame
de Talmont’s mother had been able to retain a portion of her property
through all the storms of the Revolution. Madame de Salgues had lost
both her sons, and only one grandson remained to her, the object of
her passionate devotion. But the agents of Napoleon kept watch over
the lad, as a scion of the old noblesse; and when he had attained a
suitable age, Madame de Salgues was requested to send him to the Ecole
Polytechnique, such a request being too evidently a command. She wept,
but had to obey; removing, however, to Paris, in order to be near him.
But the superintendent of police, the notorious Savary, had a word to
say upon that subject; and the poor old lady was soon forbidden to
reside within the city. Remonstrance was useless; so she retired to
Versailles, where she was still near enough to receive frequent visits
from her grandson. Finding herself alone and lonely, with failing
health and depressed spirits, she thought of Madame de Talmont; and
very wisely wrote offering a comfortable home to her and her daughter,
if they would come and cheer her declining years.

The invitation was accepted with thankfulness; and the first faint
gleams of comfort stole unconsciously into the darkened hearts of
Madame de Talmont and Clémence as they sought to soothe the sorrows of
another. Poor Madame de Salgues had soon a fresh grief to mourn over.
Like all her family, she was a stanch Legitimist, and she had brought
up her grandson in the same political creed; but he could not long
withstand the influence of his new surroundings. Before he had been
three months at the Ecole Polytechnique, his teachers and fellow-pupils
had wrought a rapid conversion, and made him as fiery and unreasoning
a partisan of Napoleon as he had once been of the Bourbons. Emile de
Salgues was not a lad whose opinions upon any subject were likely to
be of particular importance to the rest of the world, but to Madame de
Salgues the apostasy of her grandson from the good cause was a very
grievous affliction.

The invasion of France by the Allies, and the attack upon Paris, caused
many apprehensions to the household of unprotected ladies; but, as they
themselves would have expressed it, they were “quitte pour la peur,” no
adversary nor evil of any kind came near them. They all rejoiced at the
overthrow of Napoleon, but with trembling, and that for more reasons
than one,--they could not yet believe it was real, and they had not the
slightest idea of what was to take his place.

On the day following the entry of the conquerors into Paris, Madame de
Talmont said to her daughter, “Clémence, the Allies have sent their
wounded here.”

Clémence looked up from the embroidery upon which she was engaged. Two
years of sorrow had changed the young girl into a grave and quiet
woman; but there was even a rarer beauty than of old in her pale and
sculptured face. “There must be many wounded,” she remarked with an air
of sadness. “Every one says the fight was an obstinate one.”

“The hospital is full to overflowing. Clémence, they are all of them
mothers’ sons, _also_.”

In the last word there was an undertone of pain that went straight to
the heart of Clémence. “True, dear mother,” she said softly.

“I have been thinking,” Madame de Talmont resumed, “that it would do us
good to try and comfort some of them, even a little. What should _we_
feel now, if we knew that any one had done it for our beloved?”

With Clémence a call to action always found a ready response. “What can
we do, mother?” she asked with even a touch of eagerness.

“To some of the sick men fruit may be welcome; to others, a little
money to buy the trifling luxuries they may long for; to all, kind
words will not be valueless.”

“But, mother, they are Germans and Russians. They will not understand
us.”

“Some of them will. At all events, we can try.”

An hour afterwards, two ladies dressed in deep mourning and closely
veiled entered the Hospital of Versailles. Each carried a basket filled
with grapes and oranges, which they easily obtained permission to
distribute amongst the patients.

“These are all Russians who are here,” they were told; “the Prussians
and Austrians have been provided for in other places.”

The sufferers were well cared for, as well at least as circumstances
permitted. A liberal allowance was made for their support by their own
government; and the Mayor of Versailles interested himself so warmly in
their welfare, that the Czar afterwards wrote him an autograph letter
of thanks.

Madame de Talmont and Clémence passed between long rows of pallets,
distributing their little gifts, which were most thankfully received,
especially the oranges, of which the Russians were excessively fond.
They tried to show their gratitude by looks and signs; and one poor
fellow, remembering a word which is the same in most languages and
full of blessing in all, brought tears to the sad eyes of Clémence by
looking up and murmuring, “Christohs;” as though he would have said,
“We are one in Him.”

They came at last to the ward where the wounded officers lay. Their
little store was long since exhausted; and even had it been otherwise,
they would have thought the common soldiers greater objects of
compassion. So they passed on rather quickly, and without paying much
heed to the pale but interested faces which were raised from many a
pillow to gaze at the gentle, sweet-looking ladies, the very sight of
whom seemed to do the poor sufferers good.

At length one face arrested the eye of Madame de Talmont, and she could
not but pause for another look. It was a young and handsome face,
with a burning spot on either cheek, and a contraction of the brows
that told the story of feverish pain. Yet, in spite of weariness and
suffering, the eyes were absolutely beaming with joy, and a happy,
satisfied smile played over the parted lips.

She stood for a moment by the side of the invalid. “My young friend,”
she said kindly, “you seem to be in pain; and yet you look happy.”

“Yes, madame, I am indeed happy,” answered Ivan Pojarsky, who had just
been receiving a visit from his friend Tolstoi. “How can I help it?
Yesterday the Czar entered Paris in triumph.”

He spoke French as correctly and with almost as pure an accent as
Madame de Talmont herself. She was touched and interested by his words.
“But,” she asked, “do you not feel it hard to be lying here, helpless
and suffering, while your Emperor and your companions in arms enjoy
their triumph?”

“Oh no, madame,” he said with animation; “I cannot think of that. Nor
could you, if you belonged to my Czar. If you had seen the flames
of Moscow; had heard the thunder when the mines exploded that laid
half our Kremlin in ruins; had witnessed the faith and courage that
upheld him _then_, had watched the long and weary conflict he has
waged from that hour until now--patient, wise, self-sacrificing,
undaunted[50],--you would rejoice for him in the very depths of your
heart that the goal is won at last, that he stands a conqueror in
the midst of Paris, and possesses the gate of his enemies!” In his
eagerness he half raised himself, his eyes sparkled, and his whole face
flushed with excitement.

“Gently, gently, my poor young friend,” said Madame de Talmont in a
tone of almost motherly tenderness. “I fear you will hurt yourself.”

“Oh no, madame;”--but even as he spoke his colour changed rapidly, and
his lip quivered with the pain he tried to hide.

Meanwhile, many thoughts were passing through the mind of the silent
but observant Clémence. There was a little stand beside the bed, upon
which were a phial containing medicine, a small book, and a clean white
cambric handkerchief. She saw, with interest and pleasure, that the
book was a copy of the New Testament in French. Then her eye rested
upon the folded cambric, and presently a cry of amazement broke from
her lips.

Every one started and looked towards her. Madame de Talmont was
terror-stricken. So quiet and self-contained had Clémence ever been,
that even in childhood a cry from her lips was a thing almost unknown.
And now, with a face as white as that of any of the stricken sufferers
around them, she was placing the handkerchief in the hand of her
mother. “Look,” she faltered--“look, mother!”

Ivan called an attendant, fortunately within reach. “Will you kindly
place seats for these ladies?” he said, for he saw that the agitation
of the mother was as great as that of the daughter. Both were gazing
spell-bound at the crest, worked curiously and skilfully on a corner
of the handkerchief, and having beneath it the initials “H. de T.”
No wonder; for it was the fingers of Clémence that had wrought every
stitch, and her mother’s eyes had watched the work. In both hearts
a horrible dread succeeded to the first rush of uncontrollable and
unreasoning emotion. Was this amongst the spoils of the dead?

Ivan watched them with pitying eyes. “Have the goodness to be seated,
madame and mademoiselle,” he said. “A little nearer, please; I cannot
speak very loud. But I think I have something to tell you.”

They obeyed mechanically; and Madame de Talmont said falteringly,
pointing to the initials on the handkerchief, “He was my son.”

“_Is_,” Ivan corrected.

From that moment to her dying day Madame de Talmont loved the voice
that uttered that blessed monosyllable.

“I have good hope, madame, that God has preserved him to you through
many dangers,” Ivan went on. “I saw him twice--the last time at Vilna,
after the perils and horrors of the retreat were over. He was lying
sick in a hospital there. Not with any malady, only worn out with
hunger, cold, and weariness. Every care was afforded him, and every
kindness shown that circumstances permitted; and so, I trust--”

“But,” Clémence interrupted, “can we be sure there is no mistake?
M. le Russe, how did you become possessed of this?” pointing to the
handkerchief.

“In a strange way, mademoiselle,” said Ivan, fixing his deep blue eyes
on her face. “A young peasant, a friend of my childhood, was made
prisoner by the French as they were marching upon Moscow. They branded
him in the hand with the letter N, telling him that now he belonged to
their Emperor, Napoleon. The brave fellow took out his axe and struck
off the hand, saying to them, ‘Take what belongs to your Emperor; as
for me, I belong wholly to the Czar.’ Then, mademoiselle, monsieur,
your--your brother, I presume, stepped forward before them all, like
the gallant and chivalrous gentleman he is, and bound up the poor lad’s
wounded arm with his own handkerchief.”

A look of pride and pleasure flashed over the pale face of
Clémence--and Ivan saw it.

He resumed, “It was in Moscow, during the Occupation, that I met him
first. My friend pointed him out to me in one of our churches. He found
his way there, for he said it did him good to see men kneel in prayer
to God, though he could not understand their words. Afterwards, as I
told you, I saw him in the hospital at Vilna.”

Absorbed though she was in the interest of his narrative, Clémence
perceived that Ivan was growing faint “Mother,” she whispered, “I fear
we are hurting him. Let us go.”

“Only one word more,” said Ivan. “You wish to know how _I_ came by
that,” again indicating the handkerchief. “My friend Michael treasured
it carefully as a souvenir, and when I was wounded the other night, he
used it to bind the wound. Knowing how he prizes it, I was careful to
have it washed, and kept it by me to give him when he comes to see me.
Now it is better in your hands.”

Here one of the surgeons, who for some time had been hovering uneasily
about the group, interposed and courteously requested the visitors to
withdraw. He said, as he attended them to the door, “Pardon me, ladies,
for interrupting your conversation, but I must take care of my patient,
who will be in a high fever to-night if he excites himself any further.
Indeed, I fear mischief has been done already--not by _you_, ladies,”
he added with a bow, “but by one of his comrades, who came to him this
morning full of yesterday’s triumphal entry into the city.”

“I hope,” Madame de Talmont contrived to say, in spite of her extreme
agitation,--“I hope he is not severely wounded?”

“Severely, but not dangerously,” was the answer. “He is one of
the finest young men we have, madame: an ensign in the Emperor’s
Chevalier Guard, and already very favourably noticed by his Imperial
Majesty.--Adieu, madame and mademoiselle: we shall be happy to see you
another day.”



CHAPTER XXVII.

RECOGNITIONS.

  “There’s a Divinity that shapes our ends.”


“It is enough: my son is yet alive; I shall see him before I die.”
These were the first words Madame de Talmont found voice to falter,
as, leaning heavily on the arm of Clémence, she traversed the short
distance between the hospital and the house where they dwelt.

The unutterable joy and thankfulness that filled the soul of Clémence
was not unmixed with fear. With the speechless, agonizing dread of a
loving heart, she trembled for the treasure left her still. If, after
this re-awakening of their hopes, the only tidings that had to reach
them were of a nameless grave at Vilna, how could her mother bear
the blow? Surely, had he recovered, Henri would have written to them
ere this. She could not help concluding, from the young Russian’s
narrative, that he had met with sufficient kindness in the house of his
captivity to have rendered it easy for him to do so.

But she could not bear to communicate her misgivings. She led her
mother to the pleasant room they shared together, and persuaded her to
lie down and rest, taking upon herself the task of relating what they
had heard to La Tante, as they both called Madame de Salgues.

During the long night that followed, bringing sleep to neither, mother
and daughter had abundant leisure for the scattered, incoherent,
“discursive talk” beneath which overwhelming emotions usually conceal,
because they cannot adequately express, themselves. Morning had almost
come when Madame de Talmont asked, suddenly raising her head from a
hot, tear-stained pillow, “Clémence, what about a ransom? We have that
to think of now.”

“I _have_ been thinking of it, mother,” Clémence answered gently. “But
peace will be made--_must_ be made shortly. May we not conclude that
something will be arranged in it about the prisoners?”

“If peace were to be made with any one save Napoleon, I should say
yes. Some men would think of their followers, and try to make terms
for them, were they themselves on the way to the scaffold. But this
Corsican adventurer has as little idea of knightly honour as of
Christian grace; while who can tell yet what is to come after him? No,
Clémence; you may depend upon it those poor captives have no friends
save God and their own kinsfolk.--What can we do? Not even a jewel of
any value is left us now.”

“But, mother, we have still our little pittance in the Rentes. Now that
La Tante supplies all our real needs, we can sell what is there.”

“Ah, that is not enough, I fear, since the Rentes have fallen so low.
Yet it is all we have.--Clémence, I do not like Russians; in fact, as a
general thing, I have quite a prejudice against them.”

“Oh, mother, why?” asked Clémence, in tones rather more earnest than
the case demanded. “They could not help killing our people; they were
defending their native country,” she added.

“Not for that, of course; but there are reasons which you do not know.
I was about to say, however, that young Russian has interested and
attracted me in spite of myself. He seems quite a ‘preux chevalier;’
and,” she added more softly, “although he said nothing of it, I doubt
not he showed kindness to our dear one when he met him in the hospital
at Vilna. Besides, there is something in his face which I cannot
describe, but which haunts and troubles while it touches me. It seems
to remind me of some other face known long ago. We must go and see him
again to-morrow, and bring him some little token of our gratitude. What
do you think he would like, Clémence?”

But they did _not_ see Ivan on the morrow; for Madame de Talmont was
too ill to rise from her bed, and Clémence, even if she had been
willing to leave her, could not go to the hospital alone. When, after
an interval of three or four days, they made their appearance once
more, the courteous Russian surgeon gave them quite a warm welcome.

“M. Pojarsky has been watching for you, mesdames,” he said. “You will
do him more good than any of our medicines.”

“Pojarsky!” Madame de Talmont repeated, as one in a dream--“_Pojarsky!_”

Clémence was amazed to find her mother’s ready and graceful courtesy
fail her completely for once. By way of supplying her unaccountable
omission she ventured upon an inquiry for the invalid.

“He has been very feverish, and has suffered a good deal since,” the
surgeon admitted. “But he is much better to-day. Will you come to him
at once, mesdames?”

“Willingly, monsieur, if you will be kind enough to distribute these
oranges amongst those who need them most,” said Clémence, placing a
large bag in the hands of the surgeon; for her mother’s continued
silence forced her to take the initiative. “Mother,” she whispered, as
they passed into the ward where Ivan lay--“dear mother, what ails you?”

“That name awakens old associations--not happy ones,” Madame de Talmont
answered.

Ivan received his friends with a bright, glad smile of welcome. Since
their last visit he had beguiled his hours of loneliness and pain by
endeavouring to recall every word, every look of Henri’s, as a drop to
be added to the cup of comfort he was bearing to the lips of Henri’s
mother and sister. Very pleasant had the recognition been to him. Well
could he imagine how the solitary invalid far away in the hospital at
Vilna must have longed for those sweet faces, for the gentle touch
of those kind hands. What would _he_ give for such a mother, such a
sister, to tend and care for him! But then his thoughts would revert
once more, with a thrill of thankful joy, to the triumph of the Czar.
How could he wish for anything else in the world when Alexander was in
Paris, and the flames of Moscow were avenged?

At first Madame de Talmont seemed embarrassed, and a faint pink flush
lent unwonted colour to her pale cheek. But Ivan’s detailed description
of his interview with Henri at Vilna arrested and held her with its
absorbing interest.

“M. de Pojarsky,” she said, uttering the name with a little hesitation,
perhaps even reluctance, “if _you_ have a mother living, I pray God to
send some one to comfort her, as you have comforted me.”

“Ah, madame,” returned Ivan, “I have never known my mother; she died in
my earliest infancy. I am tempted to envy M. de Talmont,” he added with
a smile.

Madame de Talmont looked at him with quickened interest. “May I ask,”
she said rather quickly, “does your father live? It is sad if one so
young as you appear to be, stands alone in the world.”

Ivan sighed. “I _am_ alone in the world,” he said. “But the strange
thing is, that I cannot tell whether my father is living or dead.”

“How is that?” pursued Madame de Talmont eagerly. But Clémence
interposed, from a kindly desire to spare the young Russian a painful
recital. “We can guess,” she said--“we have heard, even in France, of
exiles in Siberia. We have pitied their sufferings.”

Ivan’s white face flushed. “No one is sent to Siberia _now_” he said
eagerly, “who would not in any other country than ours be far more
severely punished. It was the Czarina who exiled my father,” he
continued with some excitement--“not my Czar.”

“Do not think me unkind or discourteous,” Madame de Talmont said
gently, “if I venture to inquire what was the offence laid to his
charge. I have a reason.”

“I can answer without pain or reluctance,” said Ivan. “My father’s
disgrace and banishment, and my mother’s death, which quickly followed,
took place in my infancy; and the kind but simple people who cared for
me and brought me up could tell me very little. But from that little
I have gathered that my father, being in Paris at the outbreak of the
Revolution, became involved in the crimes of the Jacobins, rather from
youthful thoughtlessness than from any deliberate evil intention.”

“_Ah!_” said Madame de Talmont.

Something in her tone made Ivan raise himself to look at her. “Madame,”
he asked quickly, “did you know my father?”

“That is a question I shall be better able to answer if you on your
part will tell me--was your mother a Frenchwoman?”

“Yes, madame,” said Ivan, looking greatly agitated.

“Have you ever heard her name?”

“Not her family name, madame. Her Christian name I know--Victoire.”

Madame de Talmont wrestled in silence with some emotion, and conquered
it. Then taking Ivan’s hand in hers, she said kindly, even with
tenderness, “My dear boy, you must accept us as your cousins.”

“My cousins!” Ivan repeated. “Ah, madame, how gladly! But I must
entreat of you to explain to me my good fortune. It quite bewilders me.”

“I can explain very easily. Your mother, Victoire de Talmont, was
my husband’s much-loved cousin--nay, his sister rather, for he was
early left an orphan, and her father was as a father to him. Her only
brother, Louis de Talmont, was as his brother, until that hateful
revolutionary madness seized upon him, bringing misery and disunion
into the household. It was her brother’s influence made Victoire give
her hand to his friend, the fascinating young Russian, Prince Pojarsky.
I cannot deny that this was a great sorrow to my husband, for Prince
Pojarsky had embraced the same opinions as Louis de Talmont.”

“And did you know him, madame?” Ivan asked eagerly. “Have you ever seen
him?”

“I did not know him well. All this happened before my own marriage.
But I have seen him more than once--a fine, brilliant young man,
magnificent in dress and bearing, and very handsome. You are like him;
yet I think I see in you a stronger resemblance to the features of
Victoire.”

Madame de Talmont’s estimate of the young Russian prince had not been
very favourable, though she naturally and properly expressed herself
as kindly as she could in speaking to his son. But Clémence had always
beheld the half-mythical Victoire robed from head to foot in shining
garments, woven in the loom of her own youthful romance. To see the
son of Victoire in the flesh seemed to be part of “the stuff that
dreams are made of” brought suddenly into the realities of waking life.
Breaking silence for the first time, she asked,--

“Have you any portrait of your mother, monsieur?”

“I have never even seen one,” Ivan answered. “My father’s ruin robbed
me of everything. The poor mujiks who sheltered me most kindly and most
bravely--indeed at the peril of their own lives--were unable to keep
for me, out of all my father’s wealth, even the smallest heirloom.”

“We have a likeness of our cousin Victoire, a pencil-sketch from
the hand of my father,” Clémence rejoined. “We must show it to you,
monsieur.”

Then Madame de Talmont made some inquiries about his early history; and
he answered modestly and with feeling. He dwelt with much gratitude
upon the kindness of his dear old friend Petrovitch, saying in
conclusion, “He taught me what a good father might be like.”

At last it was necessary to say farewell. The ladies withdrew,
promising a speedy renewal of their intercourse.

“Would that I had a house of my own, even the humblest,” said Madame de
Talmont to Clémence, as they returned home; “the son of Victoire should
not lie ill another day in a public hospital. Thy father loved her
well, Clémence.”

Perhaps there was a shade on the brow of the widow as she said this;
but it was a tender shade--a long-past sorrow touched and softened into
the calm of resignation.

When they reached the house of Madame de Salgues, they went at once
to the parlour, where that lady always sat; for, kindly and tolerant
though she was, she would not readily have forgiven them if a
surprising piece of news had been kept from her a moment longer than
was necessary. They found her, however, already engaged in hearing
quite as much as was good for her, perhaps rather more.

A lad, dressed in the uniform of the Ecole Polytechnique, seemed to
have brought a breath of modern air into the quaint parlour, furnished
as “petits appartements” used to be in the days of Louis Quinze. Emile
de Salgues was seated before a table laden with every good thing in the
shape of food that the house contained. When the ladies entered he was
dividing his attention between two occupations equally fascinating.
He was exploring the depths of a Périgord pie, and driving his
grandmother almost to distraction by a graphic account of the exploits
and perils of the Polytechnic scholars during the defence of Paris.

Madame de Salgues was really slight and small, but enshrined in her own
particular fauteuil, and arrayed with elaborate care in her antique
brocades and laces, she looked dignified and even stately, while her
manners exactly suited her surroundings, and seemed to lend them an
added grace.

“Be seated, my dear Rose, and you too, Clémence,” she said to her
nieces as they entered. “You will both wish to hear what Emile has just
been telling me.”

Emile’s narrative did not flow quite so easily in the presence of his
cousins. He sometimes had a shrewd suspicion that Madame de Talmont
criticised and Clémence laughed at him; though this was hardly correct,
because Clémence in those days had little heart to laugh. However, he
resumed, after due exchange of greetings:--

“I was just telling my grandmother how we manned the guns at the
Barrière du Trône, and sent a point-blank discharge into the midst of
Count Pahlen’s hussars. Then they charged us in flank; and, outnumbered
though we were, I think I may say we gave them enough to do. It was a
glorious fight! But as for myself, I thought my last hour was come. I
was knocked down in the _mêlée_, and flung into a ditch. A gigantic
Cossack levelled his spear at my breast, and would have run me through
with it; but another Russian turned it aside, and I heard him say, ‘Pas
tuez le jeune Français.’”[51]

“May God’s blessing rest upon that Russian, whoever he was!” sighed
Madame de Salgues.

“How is the Queen of Cities bearing her reverse of fortune?” asked
Madame de Talmont, after suitable comments upon Emile’s perils and his
gallantry.

“In no queenly fashion,” returned Emile, with an air of mortification,
which, however, did not appear to spoil his enjoyment of his
grandmother’s delicate preserves. “The truth is, I am ashamed of Paris.
I am heartily glad _I_ was born in the provinces. The Parisians have no
faith, no constancy, no loyalty. Would you believe it?--nay, I suppose
you have heard it already, for ill news travels fast--they have dragged
down the Emperor’s statue from the top of the column in the Place
Vendôme; they have loaded it with the vilest of insults, covered it
with a sheet, put a rope round its neck--I know not what besides.”

“Perhaps the conquerors desired its removal,” suggested Madame de
Talmont.

“Quite the reverse. The whole column would have shared the fate of the
statue, but for a placard announcing that the Allies had taken it under
their protection. The conduct of the mob has been unutterably base; and
no whit better are the fine gentlemen of Paris, while the fine ladies
are infinitely worse.”

“Take care what you say, my dear grandson,” spoke Madame de Salgues’
correct, quiet voice. “I could wish to see you more chivalrous.”

“Chivalry would be wasted upon ladies who demean themselves so far as
to beg the gentlemen of the Emperor of Russia’s suite to take them up
on their horses, only that they may catch a glimpse of him!”

Here Clémence interposed. “The ladies of Paris may not be very
dignified,” she said, “but at least they have not, like the mob,
incurred the reproach of inconstancy. Perhaps we women are not always
wise in our choice of an idol, or self-respecting in the incense we
burn before it; but at least we seldom choose as the object of our
idolatry a man capable of leaving those who fought and bled for him to
perish unpitied in the snow, while he warmed himself at his fire in the
Tuileries, saying, in the satisfaction of his heart, ‘This is better
than Moscow.’”

Such an outburst from Clémence was rare indeed. It would not have been
possible, had not the newly-found balm of hope taken the sting out of
the old wound, and brought the Moscow retreat within the category of
things that could be spoken about.

“These are not the grounds upon which ladies form their estimates of
character,” Emile returned, a little superciliously. “Oh no! When
Napoleon wished to see a lady, he simply ordered her to come to him.
This Russian autocrat, in the like case, sends his aide-de-camp to
inquire whether madame proposes remaining at home this afternoon, as,
if so, he hopes to have the pleasure of waiting upon her. After _that_,
what fair lady could suspend her judgment for a moment? Trust the dear
creatures, one and all, to prefer the finely-polished pebble to the
diamond in the rough.”

“Does the polish _prove_ the pebble, or the roughness the diamond?”
asked Clémence demurely.

“The polish, at all events, takes with the multitude,” resumed the
indignant Emile. “High and low alike have gone out of their senses
about this Alexander. The canaille of St. Antoine are as bad as the
habitués of St. Germain. Every word he utters flies from lip to lip,
as if it were inspired. ‘Ah, sire, why did you not come to us before?’
ask the deputies of the municipality. ‘It was the valour of your armies
that detained me,’ says Alexander; and all Paris is delighted. I am
bound to own he has kind words for all, and kind deeds as well--so far.”

“There is but one question of absorbing interest for us, and for
France,” said Madame de Talmont. “Does he--do the Allies intend to use
their influence for the restoration of our rightful king?”

“That I scarcely know,” said Emile. “I do know, however, that the
streets are full of white cockades; every hour one sees more of them.
And I hear that the Emperor of Russia and the King of Prussia have
been deep in consultation with that old schemer Talleyrand, who, of
course, is turning his coat again. So, my dear grandmother, and you
too, my cousins, I think you may indulge a hope that the reign of the
antediluvians is about to recommence, and that Moses and Abraham and
all the rest of them may be shortly expected in Paris.”

Evidently Scripture history was not taught carefully at the Ecole
Polytechnique; still there was a strain of reason in the boy’s random
talk. It was as true of the men before the Revolution as of those
before the Flood, that “they ate, they drank, they planted, they
builded,” heedless of the rising tide of divine and human wrath, until
the torrent overflowed its bounds and swept them all away. Would their
successors do the same?

“As for me, _I_ am not one of your slight, inconstant time-servers,
ever ready to swim with the current and to turn towards the rising
sun,” Emile pursued, with a tragic air and a sublime confusion of
metaphors. “I can tell you, very little more would make me go to
Fontainebleau and lay my sword and my life at the feet of the Emperor,
the great Napoleon, never more truly great than now, in the hour of his
overthrow!”

“My _dear_ boy!” Madame de Salgues interposed, in a voice of agony.

“Let us suppose you do it,” said Clémence very quietly. “Even such
assistance would scarcely, at this stage, restore his fallen fortunes;
while you, on your part, would lose that mathematical prize for which
you have been trying so hard.”

Emile looked angry, and the heart of Clémence smote her. She thought of
the glow of enthusiasm with which the young Russian said “_My Czar!_”
and, after all, Emile’s hero-worship too was sincere in its way.

“I think,” she resumed, “you have already discharged your debt of
honour to Napoleon. If all who swore allegiance to him fought as you
seem to have done at the Barrière du Trône, the Allies would not be in
Paris now.”

The concession soothed his wounded vanity, and he started a fresh
subject.

“You have no idea what the city looks like,” he said. “To walk down
the Rue St. Honoré or along the Champs-Elysées is as good an amusement
as going to the play. All sorts of strange beings, out of all nations
under heaven, are riding about. Cossacks in sheep-skin jackets, with
sandy-coloured, shaggy hair and beards, long lances, and queer little
whips with plaited thongs hanging on their necks; Calmuck Tartars,
with flat noses and little eyes; Bashkirs and Tungusians from Siberia,
carrying bows and arrows. Strangest of all and best worth seeing
are the Circassian nobles, in complete hauberks of steel and bright
conical helmets. Then there are countless uniforms of a kind to which
we are better accustomed, and some of them very splendid,--jewelled
orders glittering on the breasts of the officers. All the Allies wear
sprigs of box or elm in their caps to distinguish them.--Clémence, you
should come into Paris and see the show. You really must do it. I will
take care of you,” he added magnanimously, and not perhaps averse to
the prestige it would give him amongst his school-fellows to be seen
escorting his beautiful cousin.

“My dear, you must not dream of such a thing!” cried Madame de Salgues
in great alarm. “A young lady to venture into the midst of a city
occupied by a hostile army! Who ever heard of such a piece of insanity?”

“Grandmamma, the city is as quiet as if the allied sovereigns had only
come to pay us a visit of ceremony,” said Emile. “The shops are driving
a splendid trade; only I am afraid our clever Parisians contrive to
cheat the strangers outrageously. The Rentes have risen already since
the Occupation from forty-five to seventy.” (Madame de Talmont and
Clémence exchanged glances of satisfaction.) “You could run no risk in
Paris, Clémence, unless it should come into your head to say a word
against the Emperor of Russia; and of that there is no danger, because
ladies always take care to be in the fashion. Dame Fashion herself
has become a Russian just now. We have bonbons à la Cosaque, bonnets
à la Rostopchine, dinner services adorned with pictures of the entry
of the Allies, and I know not what follies besides. But it is the
most wonderful triumph of Alexander that he is actually bringing into
fashion the very thing most scorned and laughed at in the Paris of our
days. Can you guess what I mean?”

“Good manners and decorum,” said Madame de Salgues.

“_Religion_,” said Madame de Talmont.

“You are right, ma cousine,” answered Emile. “Alexander ascribes all
his victories, not to his own skill or prowess, nor to that of his
army, but to Providence. Strange to say, his followers do the same.
Veteran officers scarred with wounds and decorated with orders, and
brilliant young guardsmen evidently of the first fashion, hold the same
language. They tell you, apparently with the most naïve simplicity,
that God, not themselves, has done it all.[52] Our Parisians, who for
years have scarcely uttered the name of God except to scoff at it, find
this piety delightful--for a change. But the clear-sighted understand
that this sort of language is dictated, if not by policy, at least by a
refined and delicate courtesy. They are gentlemen, these Russians, and
they adopt this tone to avoid wounding our sensitive pride.”

“Do you then find it so much easier to believe in chivalrous courtesy
towards man than in piety towards God?” asked Clémence.

Emile did not answer; and, after a pause, Madame de Talmont observed,--

“But you said there were generous deeds as well as gracious words.
Those, after all, are the most reliable; and at least it is pleasant to
hear of them.”

“Then I have one to tell of, certainly upon a scale of imperial
magnificence. Alexander has just restored to freedom--without ransom
and without conditions--all the Frenchmen who are prisoners in Russia.
It is said they number one hundred and fifty thousand. They are to
return immediately to France.--How?--what is it, my cousins?--what
has happened?” It was no wonder he asked, for at his words Madame de
Talmont had fainted.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

DRIFTING.

  “To that new land which is the old.”


Ivan recovered slowly from his severe and painful wound. He had just
risen from his bed one day, and was sitting, pale and languid, near
the table trying to read, when he heard some one inquiring for him. He
had received frequent visits from his comrades in the Guards, and from
other friends in the army; but now he turned gladly to welcome one whom
he had not seen since the night of the assault.

“Michael Ivanovitch!” he exclaimed; “I am delighted to see you.”

Michael returned his greeting with respectful and affectionate warmth,
and they sat down to talk over all that had happened. The change in
Ivan’s appearance shocked and grieved his old playfellow.

“You look so pale and worn, Barrinka,” he said. “Have they been good to
you here?”

“Most kind and good,” said Ivan. “I have had the best of care and
nursing. But oh, Michael, I have been longing to tell you the luck the
bandage brought me which you placed on my wound. It was wonderful!”
And he told the story of his acquaintance with the De Talmonts.
“Nothing can exceed their kindness to me,” he said. “They insist upon
my becoming their guest--or rather, I suppose I should say, the guest
of the aged relative with whom they live. They are good enough to tell
me she is eager to make my acquaintance. So I go to them to-morrow;
indeed, it was with difficulty I contrived to put it off so long, but I
could not bear to burden them with a helpless invalid.”

“Ah, Barrinka, you make friends everywhere!”

“These friends were made for me, first by you, then by the Czar, who
has put all loyal Frenchmen under infinite obligations. But tell me,
Michael, what do you think of Paris? I have not been there yet, you
know.”

“Well, Barrinka,” said Michael meditatively, and with the air of an old
traveller, “I do not think much of it after all. I would not compare
it for a moment with St. Petersburg, not to speak of holy Moscow. I
never saw holy Moscow until just before the fire,--and that was like
seeing a lovely face with the hand of death upon it,--but this city of
the Frenchmen is nothing to it--nothing! To what it _was_, I mean,” he
added with a sigh. “Where do you see anything like the great beautiful
houses, painted red and green and purple and yellow; like the roofs of
burnished lead, all shining as if they were on fire; like the gilded
domes and crosses on the tops of our churches? Napoleon himself had
the wit to admire them, and to know he had nothing half so good in his
own country, so he got the dome of the Hôtel des Invalides gilt to
look like one of ours,--a Frenchman told me that himself.--Curse those
Invalids!” said Michael, with a sudden change of manner and a look of
gloom and ill-humour.

“And why so? What harm have the poor old fellows done to you?” asked
Ivan, half laughing.

“Great harm, Barrinka. Think of their having got hold of our own Maria
Ivanovka and taken her for themselves!”

“Your--_who?_”

“Our Maria Ivanovka, who was with us from the day we left St.
Petersburg until we entered this same city of Paris--which is no great
things of a city, as I shall always say. Poor dear Maria Ivanovka! She
may have been rather old,--I don’t deny it,--and she _had_ a droop in
her upper lip, which they say is a bad sign, besides being frayed about
the mouth in a sort of general way. But the Invalids will never love
her and take care of her as we used to do.”

A momentary stupefaction had fallen upon Ivan; he wondered hazily
whether Michael was speaking of a hospital nurse or of a favourite
sutler. But he prudently held his peace, and Michael went on: “Before
the war she used to take care of the Winter Palace,--there are some
that say she stood in front of it for fifty years, but that I can’t
believe. However, not a fight have we had since we left St. Petersburg
that she has not borne a part in and done her business _well_, though
it is I who say it. At Leipzig her carriage was broken; but we mended
it with a cart wheel, which answered famously.”

Ivan understood now. “You don’t mean to say,” he exclaimed, laughing
heartily, “that the Invalids have got your gun! How came that about?”

“It is no laughing matter, Barrinka. They _have_ got her; and it was
the Czar’s own doing. He went to see the poor old Frenchmen, and found
them sorely cast down and sorrowful, breaking their hearts over their
country’s disgrace and their Emperor’s defeat.”

“That was natural,” Ivan interrupted. “Think what you and I would have
felt, Michael, had this war gone against us. And if we were old and
worn out, unable to strike a blow for our country and our Czar, we
would have felt it all the more.”

“The Czar seems to have thought like you, Barrinka; for he spoke kindly
to the poor old fellows, and tried to cheer them. And when he found
they were grieving over the loss of their guns, the trophies of their
old victories that they used to be so proud of, he told them to be
comforted; they should have their trophies back again. The Allies had
carried off those guns of theirs when they came into the city, so what
must he do but send them twelve of ours, Maria Ivanovka being one of
them--to my sorrow.”

For a moment Ivan wondered silently, “Was there ever such a knight in
friendship or in war” as his Czar, Alexander Paulovitch? Then he said:
“I think you need not grudge your gun to the poor old Frenchmen. Do you
know how many of their cannon they left behind in our country, for _us_
to show as trophies of what our arms--no, rather of what our God has
done?”

“No, Barrinka, I have never heard exactly; but I am sure they must be
many.”

“Not counting those they contrived to bury, or lost in the rivers they
passed over, we have captured of their cannon--nine hundred and twenty
and nine!”

“Great St. Nicholas!” cried Michael, lifting up his one hand in
amazement.

“Shall we not show our gratitude for this marvellous deliverance by
gentleness and kindness to our enemies, whom God cares for, even as he
does for us? That is what the Czar thinks. He has refused to break down
the bridge of Austerlitz,--a standing monument of the old triumph of
the French over _us_,--or even to change its name. ‘It is enough,’ said
he, ‘that I have passed over it with my armies.’”

“Can that be possible, Barrinka? Then no wonder every one is saying now
that the Czar is taking the part of Napoleon and of his family.”

“And if he is? What is a brave man’s duty when a foe has fallen? Should
he not think, ‘How would _I_ wish to be dealt with if the case were
mine?’ My friend Tolstoi tells me that as the Czar was entering Paris
in triumph, he looked up and saw the statue of his great enemy on the
top of the column in the Place Vendôme. ‘If _I_ had been placed so
high,’ said he, ‘my head would have been turned.’ Surely he was not
thinking of the lifeless statue on its pinnacle of stone, but of the
living man on the proud summit of this world’s dominion and glory.”

“Barrinka, the Czar _is_ there now, and his head is not turned.”

“Thank God; for it is his grace that keeps him safe. Michael, my
friend, do you remember the oath we swore that morning in the camp at
Tarovtino, with the explosion still sounding in our ears that laid half
the Kremlin in ruins?”

Michael’s eyes kindled and his dark cheek glowed. “How could I forget
it, Barrinka?” he said. “Did we not swear to take such vengeance on
Napoleon and the French as the world has never heard of yet? Woe is me!
we have had the chance and lost it.”

“Not lost it--used it nobly. Do you not see, Michael, that the Czar
has indeed taken such vengeance as the world never heard of before? To
comfort and help our enemies, to give back good for evil, is not indeed
the world’s way, but it is the way of Christ; and perhaps in the end
even the world may come to see it is the best.”

The day after this conversation took place Ivan became the guest of
Madame de Salgues. It was a happy change for him. Now, for the first
time in his life, he was thrown into the society of good, refined, and
noble-hearted women. He enjoyed its pleasures with keen appreciation;
though, as it happened, the beginning of his acquaintance with
Madame de Salgues was not particularly promising. When the ceremony
of presentation was over, the old lady began to compliment him upon
the magnanimity of his sovereign in restoring to France her rightful
monarch.

“Madame,” answered Ivan, who was anxious in his turn to say something
agreeable, “the Czar has only been desirous of consulting the wishes
of the French people. He and his Allies would have given their
approbation to any settled government the nation had been pleased to
appoint, excepting that of Napoleon or a member of his family. But
Louis Dix-huit appears to be the choice of France.”

Madame de Salgues stirred uneasily in her chair. “My dear young
friend,” she exclaimed in a slightly irritable tone, “do you not see
that is as much as to say that if a man takes a purse of gold from the
hands of a robber, he is at liberty to give it to whom he pleases? Not
so;--he must restore it to its owner, else he himself is a robber also.”

Ivan had a dim perception of the fact that France did not belong to
the Bourbons in at all the same sense that a purse of gold belongs to
its owner, but it was scarcely clear enough to express in words; and
had it been otherwise, courtesy would have admonished him to decline
an argument with his hostess. So he dexterously changed the subject;
and Madame de Salgues afterwards observed to her niece, “That young man
is certainly very well bred, and a perfect gentleman. But I fear his
principles are rather unsettled. I hope he will not influence Emile.”

Madame de Talmont could not suppress a quiet smile at the idea of the
scapegrace Emile suffering contamination from Ivan. As days passed
on, the young Russian proved a very pleasant addition to the little
household, and brightly and swiftly the period of his convalescence
glided by. When the weather improved, he often sat in a summer-house in
Madame de Salgues’ little garden; and here the ladies would bring their
embroidery and bear him company, or comrades from the city would come
to visit him.

He had one visit from Michael, who was fêted and made much of by the De
Talmonts for Henri’s sake. He said afterwards to Ivan, “Who would have
thought French people could be so good and gentle? May the Virgin bless
the young lady’s sweet face! If she would just get one of our priests
to baptize her into the true orthodox faith, I should like well enough
to see _you_ lead her up the church, a little farther than the font,
Barrinka. I think she is almost good enough.”

“Hold thy peace, Michael!” cried Ivan, half pleased, half angry, and
blushing deeply. “How little you understand! _I_ am not good enough to
kiss her feet, or to take up the glove she has dropped and give it back
to her.”

At an early stage of their acquaintance Ivan discovered Clémence’s
little store of theological books, and asked leave to study them. It
was now nearly a year and a half since he had begun to read his Bible
with attention and interest; but books about religion were still quite
new to him. He began their study eagerly, hoping to find a solution
for some difficulties which had occurred to him; but, instead of this,
fresh perplexities were awakened in his mind. He found that he had
plunged into a labyrinth of words and ideas absolutely strange to him.
It is true that the shallow scepticism of his youth had long since
given place to the only real belief he ever knew. The flames of Moscow,
the study of the New Testament, the living faith of the man whom he
supremely admired and venerated, had been God’s way of leading him into
a simple, child-like dependence upon Himself, and a genuine desire
to serve and follow Him. But of the deeper mysteries of spiritual
experience he was still almost wholly ignorant.

One afternoon Madame de Salgues was slumbering in her easy-chair, and
Madame de Talmont had been called away; so he found himself practically
alone with Clémence. The opportunity was too precious to be lost. He
took from his pocket a little book, “Les Pensées de Pascal,” which he
had been studying with deep and rather mystified attention. Showing her
a passage her own hand had marked carefully, line by line, he asked,--

“Mademoiselle, what does that mean? I confess I cannot understand it.”

She read--“‘I see my abyss of pride, of curiosity, of sin. There is
no connection between me and God, or the holy Jesus Christ. But he
has been made sin for me; by his wounds we are healed. He has healed
himself, and therefore assuredly he will heal me. I must place my
wounds upon his, must give myself to him, and he will save me with
himself.’”

Clémence paused a while. “I think it means,” she said at last very
reverently, “that the Lord Jesus Christ has taken our sins upon him,
and put himself in our place. We should be quite overwhelmed when we
come to see the ‘abyss’ of sin that is within us, if we did not know
he had done so. But he has taken our sin and bound it about him like a
robe, that we may take his righteousness and stand before the Father
robed in that.” This, however, was a height beyond the range of her
own ordinary spiritual experience. So she added presently, with an
involuntary sigh, “_If_ only we are numbered amongst his redeemed.”

“It is very wonderful,” answered Ivan thoughtfully. “Of course I always
knew the blessed Lord died for our sins,” he added, crossing himself;
“but I never felt that there was any ‘abyss’ of sin within me. Do you
think, mademoiselle, that one must feel that in order to be really
religious?”

“I think we cannot know the grace of Christ without knowing our own
sin,” Clémence answered. “But, monsieur, look at these words also; I
think you will find them easier to understand.” She turned to another
page of the book, and read--“‘Console thyself; thou wouldst not be
seeking Me, if I had not already found thee.’”

Ivan pondered. “_Found thee?_” he repeated. “As the shepherd in the
gospel found the lost sheep? But perhaps the sheep never knew how
far he had wandered; certainly he never was able to tell. That is a
comfort. I like, too, to think of one of the proverbs of my country:
‘The babe does not know God, yet God loves it.’ But I fear I am
deplorably ignorant, and in every way very far from what I ought to be.”

It was not often that the talk of these young people glided into
channels so profound. The bright and varying experiences that lay near
the surface of their lives furnished far more frequently the daily
bread of their intercourse.

When Ivan grew stronger, his friends urged him to go and see the
wonders of Paris, which the elder ladies vaunted to him, exerting
all their powers of description to depict them in glowing colours.
They had of course already done the honours of Versailles, with its
splendid palace dedicated “to all the glories of France.” Ivan was far
too polite to tell them, as Michael would have done, that he was sure
Paris could not equal Moscow before the conflagration; but he seemed
less anxious to see Paris than to bring his friends to see the Czar. At
last an expedition was arranged for an early day in May. A carriage was
engaged, in which Madame de Talmont, Clémence, and Ivan were to drive
together to the city, where Emile was to meet them, and a long day of
sight-seeing was to follow.

Ivan, all this time, was like one who floats dreamily on the calm
expanse of a tropic sea. Now and then a bright land-bird skims by, or
a blossom borne from afar sleeps on the surface of the still, clear
water. He is drawing near the shore of a new, undiscovered country; but
as yet he has not seen, has not dreamed of it. His “eyes are holden,”
until he feels the coral grate beneath his keel; then suddenly he looks
up--and behold, in one glorious moment all is changed! Palm trees wave
above him, green grasses kiss the water’s edge, gorgeous plants trail
their luxuriant wealth of flowers, and for him there is a new world
created.



CHAPTER XXIX.

IVAN’S DINNER PARTY, AND WHAT FOLLOWED.

    “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not;
    charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave
    itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked.”


The day fixed upon for the expedition to Paris was bright and sunny,
with that delicious and undefinable quality of exhilaration in the air
which is nature’s promise of summer hours to come. Such days often
make sorrowing hearts yet more sorrowful, because the chords of hope
and memory are intertwined, and no touch is light enough to stir the
one without at the same time awakening the other. But the young and
happy--those who are looking before them, not behind--find in the vague
gladness of the world without the answer and the echo to voices equally
glad and vague in the world within them. Earth, air, and sky alike seem
to whisper, “Something good is coming. We know what it is, but we may
not tell it yet.”

Truly something good was coming to two young hearts that day; nay, it
had come already, only they themselves were not quite conscious of it.
The sharp eyes of the Polytechnic scholar discerned some things which
were perhaps not equally clear to those more immediately concerned.
Emile felt very angry with Ivan for what he chose to consider his
presumption, and he vowed inwardly that, if he could, he would spoil
his plans. It seemed a kind of propitiatory sacrifice to his fallen
idol Napoleon to disappoint and humiliate one of his conquerors--“ce
coquin russe,” as he called him in his heart. But he allowed nothing of
this to appear during the day; he was assiduous in performing his duty
of cicerone to the party, and anxious that Ivan should miss no sight
calculated to give him an exalted idea of the glories and resources
of France--least of all the Louvre, then rich with the spoils of a
vanquished continent.

He only permitted himself a slight touch of malice when Ivan met one of
his friends, and was told by him that they could not see the Czar that
day, as he had gone out to Malmaison. The evident disappointment of
Clémence piqued him almost as much as it flattered Ivan.

“Never mind, ma cousine,” he said. “We will show you the camp of the
Cossacks in the Champs-Elysées--_that_ is something really worth
seeing. It is true they are perfect savages, ugly, uncouth, and
unclean; but they are sufficiently amusing for all that.”

Early in the day Ivan had observed the words, “Ici on dine à la Russe,”
on the window of a fashionable restaurant in the Rue St. Honoré. He
took Emile privately into counsel, saying, “I should like to give our
friends a genuine Russian dinner;” and the lad, notwithstanding his
private feelings, was glad to assist in a plan that promised a little
amusement to himself. Accordingly, when the day was nearing its close,
and the eyes and limbs of the little party were thoroughly tired, no
one was very sorry to hear Emile say to Ivan,--

“This is the place where you wished me to order dinner, Monsieur
Posharky. I have carried out all your directions to the best of my
ability.”

But ere they could enter the glittering doors of the restaurant, their
attention was attracted by a little scene which was passing on the
crowded footpath of the fashionable street. A gentleman whom Emile
would have called old, Ivan middle-aged, and Madame de Talmont in the
prime of life, was bending in evident perplexity over a little girl,
who was crying and stamping her small foot in a vehement passion.

“Ma petite, ma chère fillette,” he was expostulating, “be wise, I pray
thee. Bethink thyself; all the world is gazing at us. Come, come, my
child, dry thine eyes. I will buy thee a far handsomer brooch at the
first jeweller’s shop I can find.”

“But it will not have in it the hair of dear mamma,” sobbed the child,
a slight, black-eyed little girl of eleven or twelve.

Meanwhile Madame de Talmont recognized in the gentleman an old friend,
a political exile, who had doubtless accompanied the stream of
returning _émigrés_ back to Paris.

“Can it be that I have the happiness of seeing once again my dear old
friend Monsieur de Sartines?” she interposed, making a most welcome
diversion; “and this--is this young lady the little Stéphanie we used
to know, whom I have so often held in my arms? Monsieur de Sartines,
here is my daughter Clémence,” she added. “She too will have grown
almost beyond your remembrance.”

But Clémence was already making friends with the disconsolate
Stéphanie, listening to the story of the lost brooch, and comforting
her with a tact and gentleness which Ivan was watching with admiring
and delighted eyes.

Madame de Talmont soon remembered him, and presented to M. de Sartines
“Our young friend Monsieur Pojarsky, a Russian, an officer in his
Imperial Majesty’s Chevalier Guard.”

After the usual compliments, Ivan presented a request, framed as
gracefully as a Parisian could have done it, that monsieur and
mademoiselle would do him the honour to join them at dinner. The
proposal was found agreeable, and the whole party adjourned to a
handsome dining-hall, where a table exquisitely adorned with baskets of
rare fruit and vases of flowers fully satisfied Ivan’s expectations.
Nor did the repast that followed disappoint the young Russian,
jealous in the lightest matters for the credit of his country. The
enterprising Parisian restaurateur, having secured the services of a
celebrated French _chef de cuisine_ whom the war had deprived of his
lucrative situation in the establishment of a Russian millionnaire,
was able to set before his numerous Russian guests just such a banquet
as would have awaited them at the table of a Tolstoi, a Narischkin, a
Dolgorouki.

The dinner went merrily forward. The names of the dishes were strange,
but their quality was unexceptionable. Amongst other specialties, a
delicate fish soup gained the approbation of the party, although Ivan
lamented that it could only be made in perfection of the sterlet, not
to be found anywhere except in the waters of the Oka, the river near
which he had spent his childhood. Emile devoted himself assiduously to
certain delicious chicken cutlets called “Côtelettes à la Pojarsky” in
honour of Ivan’s heroic ancestor; although, when he heard the name,
he somewhat ungallantly sought to dissuade Clémence from partaking
of them. Rare wines, flavoured with peaches, apricots, and prunes,
accompanied the little banquet; and the fruits, ices, and confectionery
were voted perfectly “ravishing” by Emile and Stéphanie, nor did any
one dispute their verdict.

It would have been well if Ivan’s guests had been equally harmonious
upon other subjects. But it was impossible, in a crisis like the
present, not to talk of public events, and just as impossible to talk
of them without differences of opinion. The party consisted of three
ardent Legitimists, a Buonapartist, a Russian devoted to his Czar, and
a clever, observant child, whose sole political creed as yet was that
everything done in the world ought to contribute to the amusement and
gratification of Stéphanie de Sartines.

Ivan’s ideas of politeness, perhaps a little overstrained, led him to
say everything he could think of in praise of Paris; and M. de Sartines
replied by a tribute to the magnanimity of the conqueror, who spared
the splendid city when it lay at his mercy. “Your Emperor,” he said,
“has shown himself generous to his fallen enemies.”

“Monsieur,” replied Ivan, “my Czar has no fallen enemies. With him the
unfortunate ceases at once to be the enemy.”[53]

“It has been a great disappointment to us,” said Madame de Talmont,
“that we failed to see him to-day.”

Emile had one of his small sharp darts in readiness for his Royalist
cousins. “It is not so easy to see the Emperor Alexander since the
return of Louis Dix-huit,” he said. “It is no secret that the Bourbon
is jealous of the Czar. In order not to interfere with his most
Christian Majesty’s ‘divine right’ to be the admired of all admirers in
his own capital, Alexander appears to efface himself. He even takes his
daily walk at four in the morning, before the ‘beau monde’ is astir and
ready to gaze at him.”

“Papa,” asked Stéphanie, “what is divine right?”

“Inhuman wrong,” said Emile under his breath.

“Try this iced pine-apple, mademoiselle,” interposed Ivan, afraid of an
argument. “It goes very well with these almond biscuits.”

“This is the third or fourth time, I believe, that the Emperor has gone
to Malmaison,” said M. de Sartines a little stiffly. “He is certainly
very attentive to the ex-Empress Joséphine.”

“Her health is failing,” Ivan answered, “and no doubt her heart is
broken. In my boyhood I believed, with almost every one about me, that
Napoleon owed his successes to her. We thought she possessed magical
powers, and used to transform herself into a white dove, that she might
hear and impart to him the counsels of his enemies. How amazed I would
have been had any one told me that Napoleon would abandon her; and that
the Czar, finding her forlorn and sorrowful, would, out of chivalrous
pity, plead for and comfort her!”

“Of all the bad actions of Napoleon’s bad life,” said M. de Sartines
with emphasis, “I believe his treatment of that woman is the worst.”

“Perhaps so, monsieur,” said Ivan. “Still _I_ can scarcely think it,
because I have never seen the ex-Empress, while I _have_ seen the
miserable remains of the gallant army which he abandoned so cruelly in
the frozen plains of Lithuania.”

The next moment he was sorry for his words, for he caught the angry
glare in the eyes of Emile. Either he had not heard or he had forgotten
that the lad was an ardent admirer of Buonaparte.

“The Emperor is fallen,” said Emile, “therefore, of course, every one
finds a stone to fling at him. He was not faultless,--I grant it. You
cannot expect real greatness to bind itself down to the rules of a
timid conventional morality. But at least he was entirely free from
petty vanities and small affectations. You would never find _him_
laying himself out to gain the cheap praise of a magnanimous conqueror
from the lips of the vulgar.”

“_Never_, indeed,” assented Madame de Talmont.

“True, undoubtedly,” said M. de Sartines.

No one noticed Stéphanie’s aside: “I see; _very_ clever people need not
care about being good. I shall tell my governess that.”

But every one looked at Ivan. For a moment he grew perfectly white
with anger; then his face resumed its natural colour, and a smile
played about his lips. He said nothing, however, and Emile went on:
“Consequently he never overshot the mark and made himself ridiculous,
as I must say the Emperor Alexander did the other day, when he actually
admitted to his own table, and spent hours in conversation with--whom
do you think, ladies?”

As neither Madame de Talmont nor Clémence replied, Stéphanie felt
herself called upon. “Perhaps the Director of the Ecole Polytechnique,
or--could it possibly have been one of the boys?--_students_, I beg
your pardon,” said she with a saucy glance at Emile.

“My dear child,” said her father in a grieved and reproving aside, “do
not, I pray thee, try to act _l’enfant terrible_.”

Emile did not condescend to notice her, “No one greater,” he resumed,
“than the Abbé Sicard.”

“Who is he?” asked M. de Sartines.

Madame de Talmont and Clémence knew very well, and looked interested.

“An old fool of a priest who spends his life picking up deaf and dumb
children out of the streets, and teaching them to read and to say their
prayers,” replied Emile.

“How can they say their prayers if they are dumb?” queried Stéphanie.

“They speak with their fingers, dear,” Clémence explained in a lower
tone. “I will tell you all about it another time. I have seen a poor
boy examined who was taught by the Abbé Sicard. It was wonderful and
beautiful. He knew far more than many a child who could hear, and he
_felt_ what he knew.”

“His Imperial Majesty,” Emile was saying meanwhile, “who has all the
affairs of the world on his shoulders, and can scarcely find time to
be commonly courteous to the fair ladies who adore him, found time
enough to hear all the ‘methods,’ as they call them, of this fanatical
priest; and has given him the Order of St. Ladislaus, or St. Laocoon,
or something.”

“The Order of St. Wladamir, you mean,” said Ivan very quietly. “When
the Czar returns home, he will probably establish a school for the deaf
and dumb in St. Petersburg, like that of the Abbé Sicard here.[54] I
thank you for telling us all this, M. Emile. Do you take liqueur? I can
recommend this curaçoa.”

“Curse his effrontery!” thought Emile. “Will nothing disconcert him? I
will take another way with him, however.”

After the party rose from table, the De Talmonts had a short walk
to the place where the carriage was to meet them; and their friends
accompanied them. M. de Sartines gave his arm to Madame de Talmont,
and Stéphanie clung to Clémence, so that Emile and Ivan were obliged
to bring up the rear together, not greatly to the satisfaction of
the latter. To the former, however, it was a precious and longed-for
opportunity.

“M. de Sartines is a very well-bred sort of man,” he explained to
Ivan,--“though I, of course, am not fond of Legitimists and believers
in ‘divine right.’ It may be four or five years now since he gave
offence, in some way or other, to Savary, the late superintendent of
police, and was requested to quit the Empire. He has just come back
in the train of Louis Dix-huit, with a great many more who are less
wanted.--Peste! the whole city is full of these white cockades; one
would think there was snow in May time.--I suppose that by this time
_you_ know all the family affairs, M. Posharky, and they have told you
that long ago, before he left Paris, M. de Sartines was betrothed to my
cousin Clémence.”

Ivan’s sudden, irrepressible start, and the deadly paleness that
overspread his face, gave the keenest gratification to Emile. “But he
is so old, he might be her father,” he said at last.

“That does not matter in the least,” returned the spiteful Emile. “He
is an excellent _parti_--has a good property, settled principles,
and all that. Do you not see how devoted Clémence is to that amiable
and precocious young lady, Mademoiselle Stéphanie? She will make an
admirable step-mother; though I cannot say I envy her the charge.”

“But, at the time you say it was arranged, Mademoiselle Clémence must
have been only a child.”

Emile looked at him keenly. “I fear your wound is sometimes painful,
even yet,” he said.

“Yes, it hurts occasionally.--Is it then your custom here to betroth
children?”

“It is the custom for parents to arrange all these little matters as
they think best, and sometimes they arrange them very early. Madame
de Talmont, though she looks so gentle, is a woman of most decided
will, quite capable of settling the destinies of all belonging to her.
Ah, here is the carriage! I am glad I have made your acquaintance, M.
Posharky, and I thank you for a very pleasant day.”

Ivan could not certainly return the compliment. The homeward drive was
rather silent; only a few remarks passed between Madame de Talmont
and her daughter. Ivan looked, and was, exceedingly tired. Madame de
Talmont observed this, and kindly, even tenderly, expressed a hope that
the fatigues of the day had not been too much for him; nor did the eyes
of Clémence fail to express her concern, though her lips were silent.

But all the time his resolve was taking shape and strengthening.
Emile’s tidings, while they touched him to the quick, had also revealed
him to himself. His path lay straight before him now; he could do no
less than

  “Put his fortune to the touch,
  And gain or lose it all.”

But the gain was so inconceivably precious, the loss so unutterably
terrible! A brave man may have the courage to risk his all; yet he
knows the extent of the risk, and it is no disgrace to him if his heart
trembles. That evening Ivan’s heart trembled sorely; nay, it almost
sank within him.

But a powerful ally was at hand. The door was opened for the returning
party by a young soldier in undress uniform. There was a startled cry,
an instant’s hesitation, and in another moment Madame de Talmont was
weeping in the arms of her son, and Clémence standing beside them with
a radiant face. Ivan silently sought his lonely chamber; “for,” said
he, “this joy is one in which a stranger may not intermeddle.”

An hour later Henri bounded up the stairs, and knocked at his door.
“Supper is ready,” he said; “come, my friend, and join us.” As they
went down together he added, “It is one joy the more for me to find
_you_ here, M. Pojarsky.”

While the happy family party sat together over the repast--almost as
unable now to eat for joy as they had been for sorrow on the evening of
Henri’s departure--their talk strayed lightly over the surface of the
eventful histories that had yet to be told and heard.

“I must congratulate you upon your recovery, M. de Talmont,” said
Ivan.--“If you had seen him in the hospital at Vilna, madame,” he
added, turning to Madame de Talmont, “you would rejoice and wonder at
the change.”

“Ah, that well-remembered visit of yours!” returned Henri. “In every
way it was a happy one for me. Do you know it has saved me a tedious
and fruitless journey to Brie, and a long delay in finding my mother
and sister?”

“How could that be?”

“I arrived in Paris last night, very late. This morning I chanced to
see a young Russian gentleman in a uniform like yours; so I accosted
him, and asked for news of you.”

“How did you know my name?”

Henri smiled. “Naturally I wished to know to whom I was indebted for
so much kindness. So that day, after you left the hospital, I asked
those about me, and easily found out who you were. Your comrade in the
Chevalier Guard, whom I met this morning, informed me that you had been
wounded, and were now at Versailles. Shall I tell you what he said
besides?” he added with a comical air of hesitation. “Just this--‘He is
a fortunate lad, born under a lucky star, and always sure to fall upon
his feet. At present he is the guest of a perfectly charming family of
the old noblesse, named De Talmont.’”

“O Henri!” cried the half-blushing, half-laughing Clémence. “I fear
your residence abroad has not advanced you in the grace of modesty.”

“I shall punish you for that speech by deepening your blushes, sister
mine,” returned Henri, laughing merrily. “For my informant, M. Tolstoi,
was good enough to add, ‘There are two elder ladies of the most perfect
grace and breeding; and a demoiselle with a face beautiful as the
Madonna’s, and no doubt a soul that answers to her face.’ Of course
after that I hastened to inform him that the young lady was my sister,
and to beg for the address. So here I am.”

“But why did you not write to us during all this long weary time?”
asked his mother. “Why did you allow us to fear, nay, to believe the
worst?”

“I _did_ write, dearest mother, from Vilna, no less than four times;
and you can imagine how I longed for one word in reply, and how my
heart sank as days and weeks and months passed in silence. Of course I
sent all my letters to Brie.”

“Then the lazy, dishonest, incompetent postmaster of Brie ought to be
ignominiously dismissed from his office, as no doubt he would have been
under the old régime,” said Madame de Salgues, breaking silence almost
for the first time. That night she was taking, gladly and contentedly,
the place of an interested spectator of the drama of life, in which
her own part had been played long ago. If in the thankful little
household there still was one anxious and desponding heart, it was that
of Ivan--“the young heart hot and restless,” not “the old subdued and
slow.”



CHAPTER XXX.

THE PURPLE BROCADE ONCE MORE.

  “He says, ‘God bless him!’ almost with a sob,
  As the great hero passes; he is glad
  The world holds mighty men and mighty deeds.”

            GEORGE ELIOT.


Three or four days later, a solemn council met in the parlour of Madame
de Salgues to consider the proposal for the hand of Clémence formally
made the previous evening by Ivan to Madame de Talmont. The council
consisted only of three persons--Madame de Salgues, Madame de Talmont,
and Henri--the two most immediately concerned being, as a matter of
course, excluded. The Czar was expected in Versailles that day; and
Ivan, knowing that his only chance of a word from him was to be found
in placing himself once more amongst his wounded comrades, had gone to
the hospital. Clémence was in her own chamber, on her knees, her hot
face pressed down upon the coverlet of her bed. Yet she was scarcely
praying. The hopes, the fears, the wishes that stirred timidly in the
depths of her heart were too vague to clothe themselves in words. Not
even into the ear of her mother could she have found voice to breathe
them; especially since the rigid conventionalities amidst which she had
been brought up forbade her to acknowledge that she had hopes or fears
or wishes at all. But kneeling there, she felt herself in the presence
of One who knew all, who understood each subtle turn and winding of the
heart that did not half understand itself; and without too curiously
examining her burden, she tried to lay it, just as it was, at his feet.
“Our Father who art in heaven,” she pleaded, “do what is right and best
for me, and for--for _us all_. And thy will be done.”

Meanwhile the voices in the room beneath her scarcely paused for an
instant. They were calm, well-bred voices, which never interrupted
each other, never grew too loud or hasty. But they were the voices
of speakers very much in earnest, and with very definite views and
opinions. It was with Madame de Talmont that the decision really
rested; but she felt it right and fitting to consult the two others,
though perhaps she only did it, as persons of a quiet but determined
character are apt to do, with her own mind fully made up. “You are
aware, my dear aunt,” she said, “that the unhappy marriage of our poor
Cousin Victoire has created in my mind a strong prejudice against
Russians. But this feeling, though it may have its weight with me,
ought not to be decisive.”

Henri moved uneasily, and seemed about to speak, but restrained
himself, and Madame de Salgues inquired, “Does this young man resemble
his father?”

“In his figure, yes; and somewhat in his features also; but he is
far more like his mother. Victoire was charming; and I am bound to
acknowledge that everything I have observed in her son since he came
here creates the most favourable impression.”

“He certainly seems to be a perfect gentleman,” Madame de Salgues
admitted. “Un parfait honnête homme,” was what she said.

“He is courteous, unselfish, generous,” Madame de Talmont added. “His
principles appear to be excellent; and although, of course, I greatly
deplore the difference of religion, and should much prefer a Catholic,
still I believe him to be really pious in his own way, and very
scrupulous in observing the rites of his Church. Besides, as Clémence
is herself so _dévote_, I have little doubt she will gain him in the
end.”

“All you say is most true,” Henri assented warmly. “Dear mother,
if it be your wish to give the hand of my sister to an honourable,
noble-hearted, God-fearing man, I think you may search the world
without finding a better than Ivan Ivanovitch Pojarsky.”

“The young man may deserve all you say of him,” Madame de Salgues
interposed rather sharply; “but in the meantime I wish to know what are
his prospects. What does he intend to live upon?”

“He is an officer--an ensign in the Chevalier Guard,” remarked Madame
de Talmont.

“We all know that, my dear Rose,” returned the elder lady, with just a
shade of contempt in her quiet, well-bred accents; “but we know equally
well that his pay will scarcely keep him in white kid gloves, tobacco,
and pocket-money.”

“He does not use tobacco,” Henri threw in by way of parenthesis.

“A place in such a corps may be a social distinction,” Madame de
Salgues continued, “but it is in no sense a provision. It gives
prestige, but it absorbs money.”

“I believe he has good expectations,” Madame de Talmont hazarded.

“Good expectations!” the old lady scornfully repeated. “It would be
more to the purpose if he had a good estate. But it appears his father
was despoiled of everything, even to his clothes and his jewellery.
While as for the young man himself, he has had half-a-dozen civil words
from the Emperor of Russia. That is absolutely all. I fail to see how
he can set up an establishment and do justice to a family upon _that_.”

“The Emperor, who is in full possession of all his history, would
not have placed him in the Chevalier Guard if he had not intended to
provide for him,” Henri said. “Do you know, my dear mother,” he asked
rather abruptly, “that M. Pojarsky was in Moscow during the whole time
of the Occupation?”

“I know he met you there; but how he came to be there himself I do not
know.”

“Just like him not to speak of it. I can tell you, however, it was
a piece of splendid gallantry from first to last. I heard it talked
of even at Vilna. M. Pojarsky, young as he then was, stayed in the
doomed city, at the peril of his life, to aid in that terrible work of
destruction, which will never be forgotten while the world lasts. He
helped to give Murat the warm reception he got there; and he discovered
some hundreds of Russian wounded who lay concealed in the cellars, and
must have died of starvation but for the food with which he supplied
them. I am sure my honoured aunt and my dear mother will both agree
with me that these services have established a claim upon his sovereign
which no monarch would be likely to disregard, least of all the Emperor
Alexander.”

The force of this statement was admitted by Madame de Salgues with
half-reluctant candour, and by Madame de Talmont with genuine
satisfaction. Here the discussion ended, though the conversation lasted
some time longer. Finally it was arranged that Ivan’s suit was to be
favourably received, upon an understanding that the marriage must on
no account take place until he had the prospect of an assured and
permanent competency.

No one had even alluded to what we should have thought the most
important element in the problem--the inclination of Clémence herself.
But what is unnamed is not necessarily unconsidered. The heart of the
mother beat in unison with the heart of the child, although no words
had passed between them. There were tears in the eyes of Madame de
Talmont, but a thankful look in her quiet face, when at last she rose
and said, “Now I think I may go and speak with Clémence.”

“Do so, dear mother,” said Henri, rising to open the door for her.
“But, I pray thee, do not detain her long. For I have set my heart
upon inducing her to walk with me as far as the gate of the hospital,
to see the Czar.”

“And what need of that, pray?” asked Madame de Salgues. “I understand
the Emperor of Russia is to pass through this street on his way to the
Castle. We shall all see him from these windows. What more can any one
desire?”

“Any one who had a sister as pretty as mine might very well desire
to take a walk with her in the town, when all the world is making
holiday,” returned Henri, laughing.

“Well, that is not so unreasonable. Young people of course like a
little pleasure; and the very best people--gens comme il faut--will
all be on foot in the streets to-day. But I trust, M. Henri,” the old
lady added more gravely as the two were left alone together, “that
you may never regret having thrown your influence into the scale of
this Russian. Even supposing the young man to be the most desirable
_parti_ in the world, think of the banishment from civilized society,
and the frightful climate of St. Petersburg! Clémence might have done
better--much better. Not to speak of M. de Cranfort, a very excellent
person, _bien rangé_, and with a sufficient property, who is a constant
visitor here, and I believe not indifferent to your sister, there are
others by no means to be despised.”

“I suspect M. Ivan has heard something of a certain M. de Sartines
which has disquieted him.”

“What can he have heard of _him_?”

“I do not know exactly; but the idea seems to have been given that he
aspires to the hand of Clémence.”

“Oh, as for _that_, it must be a mistake! M. de Sartines has but just
returned to Paris after an exile of several years. If in former days
he had any _penchant_, I believe it was--do not laugh, Henri--for the
mother, not the daughter. My own ideas for Clémence--not that there is
any use in expressing them now--pointed, I must confess, in a different
direction. I am not rich, but these are evil days, and it is something
to have saved from the wreck of a fine fortune even so much as I
have contrived to do--for Emile.” A faint, delicate flush overspread
the furrowed cheeks of the old lady as she uttered the name she loved
best in the world, and added, with a little tender hesitation that was
almost touching, “I am very fond of your sister, M. Henri.”

“I know it, ma tante,” said Henri, kissing her hand. “I can never be
half grateful enough for all your goodness to her, and to my dear
mother. But I am sure Clémence will be happy, and that you are kind and
generous enough to rejoice in her happiness.”

He went to the door of his sister’s room, and knocked. After a slight
pause, his knock was answered by a gentle “Come in” from Madame de
Talmont. Mother and daughter stood together at the window, and traces
of tears were on both their faces. Henri made his request that Clémence
would accompany him into the town; and Madame de Talmont, who did not
like to deny him anything, decided that she had better go. Clémence
would far rather have stayed at home; but she yielded, as usual, to the
wishes of her mother.

“Have you no dress but that one?” asked Henri with a little hesitation,
as he pointed to the plain black serge worn as mourning for him, and
which, in the three bright, bewildering days that had passed since his
return, she had been too much occupied to think of discarding. “M. Ivan
tells me that the Czar noticed with sadness ‘the number of women and
children in mourning’ that he saw on the day of his triumphal entry
into Paris. Do not let him see one in mourning to-day who has no cause
to mourn.”

“I have _one_ coloured dress,” said Clémence; and going to a closet
near at hand, she took out the purple brocade which her mother had
given her before Henri’s departure, and which she had never worn.

“It will do very well,” said Madame de Talmont. “Already the story
of _my_ life is wrought into the pattern of those flowers.--And now
_thine_.”

Henri and Clémence were soon threading their way through the crowded
street, where the inhabitants of Versailles were making holiday. The
brother and sister seemed to have changed positions, if not characters.
Henri had passed through such terrible suffering of body and mind, that
although the one might recover its strength and the other its tone,
still there was something gone from him which could never return: he
had left his youth behind him in the snows of Russia. On the other
hand, a fresh spring-time of life and hope had come to Clémence; the
garden of her sad and careful girlhood was beginning to rejoice and
blossom as the rose. As in former days the grave and motherly elder
sister had watched over and counselled the careless, happy-hearted boy;
so now it became the office of the manly brother to protect and shield,
perhaps to advise, the young and timid maiden trembling on the brink of
the deeper joys of womanhood. Yet, though they had much to talk of, at
first few words passed between them.

“We are late,” Henri observed to Clémence, as he hurried her
along.--“Here they come!”

The Czar had already left the hospital, and the stately cavalcade was
advancing slowly down the street on its way to the Avenue de Paris.
“Let us come to these steps,” said Henri, leading his sister quickly
through the throng. “We shall see well here.”

But the senses of Clémence were confused by the glittering train as it
passed along. “Where is the Czar?” she asked in haste, making her voice
heard with difficulty through the shouts and cheering that filled the
air.

“_There_--in green and gold--on the white horse.”

“Yes; I see him!” she cried, her eye following the direction of Henri’s
finger.

On either side of the Czar rode a handsome fair-haired boy, and the
bright young faces attracted for an instant the eye of Clémence. “His
sons?” she queried.

“Would they were,” answered Henri. “No, he is childless. They are his
young brothers, the Grand Dukes Nicholas and Michael.”

But Clémence scarcely listened, so eager was she to see what Ivan’s
Czar was like.

The face was noble, but care-worn and weary, as of a man who had heavy
burdens to bear. Just then, however, he turned towards one of the lads,
bending his head to catch some laughing remark of his, and a smile
flashed like sunlight over his features, revealing a rare and spiritual
beauty unseen by her before. She was satisfied.

Henri, meanwhile, was beside himself with excitement. He took off his
cap, waved it in the air, then taking advantage of a momentary pause in
the incessant and deafening cries of “Vive Alexandre! Vive l’Empereur
de Russie!” that filled the street, he shouted aloud, in his clear,
high-pitched voice, “_Vive l’aide-de-camp de St. Priest!_”

Clémence gazed at her brother in amazement “What do you mean? Who is
the aide-de-camp de St. Priest?” she whispered.

“He has heard! He understands! He is bowing to us!” cried Henri,
without heeding her. “God bless him! God grant me one day to tell him
what he has done for me. Or, perhaps, _you_ will tell him for me,
Clémence?”

“Dear brother, let us come home. This crowd is too much for you,” said
Clémence in an anxious tone, as she saw his rapidly changing colour and
the tears that gathered in his eyes.

“No; it is all right. Thank God I have seen him once again. When they
have passed on I will take you home by some quiet way, and tell you why
I am so deeply moved.”

As he spoke they saw Ivan on horseback, amidst the group that followed
the Czar. He saluted them; and as he did so his face lighted up until
it grew absolutely radiant with satisfaction. “I told him,” whispered
Henri, “that if he saw you here wearing a coloured dress he might
rejoice.”

“O Henri!” cried the horror-stricken Clémence, her face overspread with
blushes. “How wicked of you! What will he think?”

“Nothing about _you_, sister mine. He knows you were not in the plot;
so be at rest. Now, let us come away; our work is done.”

They found a quiet way through streets which were little frequented
at any time, and that day were absolutely empty. Hitherto Henri had
been very silent about the story of his life since they parted; about
all at least except the last year, which he had spent very comfortably
at Vilna, recruiting his health, and enjoying the society of numerous
friends amongst the Polish nobility and gentry, who soon discovered in
the young conscript the scion of an old and good family. The allowance
generously given by the Czar to all the French prisoners sufficed for
his moderate wants;[55] and he had wisely devoted his leisure to study.
Thus much he had told to his mother and sister; but the horrors of the
Moscow campaign had been studiously avoided. Now, however, as they
walked slowly along, Henri told his sister as much as he could tell any
one of the “weltering abysses of trouble” through which he had passed.
He told of the weary hungerings in the snow; of the Berezina agony;
of the dazed, half-delirious wanderings over the frozen Polish plain;
of the bitter, blank despair that settled down upon him at last. He
told of the ghastly Vilna hospital, the lowest depth of all; and of
the love, divine and human, which met him there and rescued him from
the pit of horror. “My feet were set in a large place,” he said; “and
I thanked God and believed in him as I had never done before.” He
added, after a pause, “And Ivan is the reflection of his Czar. Even
unconsciously and in the veriest trifles he copies him. Now, Clémence
you know another reason why I am not unwilling to trust the dearest of
sisters to his keeping.”

When the blush that passed over the face of Clémence had subsided a
little, she said softly, “No doubt you pray every day for the Czar. So
shall I.”

“I do; but it is hard to know what to ask for him. Already God
has given him everything we are wont to ask for rulers of the
earth--dominion, power, glory, wealth, victory over his foes.”

“Let us ask God to give him his very best gifts, Henri.”

“Ay, if only we knew what they are.”

“We do know, brother,--love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness,
goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.”

Henri started, as though the thought were new to him. “Those would be
strange jewels for the diadem on a monarch’s brow,” he said. “Yet,
after all, the world--here in Paris as well as where I have been in
Poland--can bear witness to ‘long-suffering, gentleness, goodness.’ Of
‘love, joy, peace,’ of course I cannot speak, for they are gems whose
light is turned God-wards.”

“Then let our prayer be for those. The face we have seen to-day does
not look joyful, Henri.”

When they returned to the house they found guests awaiting them,
friends of Madame de Salgues, who wished to congratulate her niece
upon the return of Henri, and to make his acquaintance. The afternoon
was spent in entertaining them, and was already far gone when Ivan
joined the party. Madame de Talmont contrived to say a word to him in
private, which sent him with a beaming face to answer M. de Cranfort’s
multitudinous questions about the Dresden campaign.

By-and-by, when the soft May twilight had fallen, he stole to the
window where Clémence was standing looking out on the little garden.
She had wearied of the discussion absorbing all the others, about the
time and manner of the new king’s triumphal entry into his capital.
Ivan in his heart thanked the quick, eager voices which were making
just then a welcome “solitude for two.”

“Mademoiselle Clémence,” he began.

A thrill of terror swept over the girl’s heart, like the instinctive
shrinking of the sensitive plant which closes up its petals at the
lightest touch. She took refuge, not in silence, but in speech.
“Monsieur Ivan,” she said quickly, “I have seen your Czar.”

“Have you?”

“Yes; and heard Henri talk of him. There is a verse in the Gospel of
which he has taught me the meaning--‘He that is greatest among you
shall be your servant.’”

“How true! You always seem to go to the heart of everything.” There
was a pause sufficient for Ivan’s quick ear to note that the pompous
tones of M. de Cranfort were quite filling the room. “Dear Mademoiselle
Clémence,” he resumed, “one little word from you can make me richer
than the Czar himself to-night.”

Clémence murmured something inaudible, and seemed to need the hand he
tried to take to shade her face, though the room was in darkness now.

Then Ivan’s passionate heart flashed out and found its utterance. Since
the beginning of the world had no one ever loved as he loved Clémence.
It is the old fond illusion: to each young and ardent soul its own
experience is a new discovery, undreamt of heretofore by the slow heart
of humanity. Each generation sings--

  “We were the first that ever burst
  Into that silent sea.”

But the moment’s rapture was all too brief. The vigilant eye of Madame
de Talmont discerned a state of things which, if suffered to continue,
might possibly imperil “les convenances.” She rose softly from her
place and drew near, near enough to catch the low-breathed words, “My
Clémence.” After one sigh--into which all the memories of her own youth
were gathered up--she laid her hand gently on the arm of Clémence. “My
dear child,” she said, “dost thou know that the little Fanchon is very
ill? La Tante will never be content if she is not well cared for. Go
and see.”

Fanchon was only a favourite lap-dog, but Clémence lavished a good deal
of tenderness that night on the little creature.

Three very happy weeks followed; then Ivan’s marching orders came, and
he set his face towards his own country, not without sorrow, but with
the hope of a glad return at no distant day to claim the treasure left
behind him.



CHAPTER XXXI.

LEAVES FROM LETTERS.

  “Umile in tanta gloria.”--PETRARCH.


The bright spring-tide had ripened into a yet brighter summer, when
one day Clémence entered the parlour where the two elder ladies sat
at work. Her cheeks were glowing, and she held in her hand several
closely-written sheets of paper. “Dear aunt and dear mother,” she
said, “I thought you would like me to read for you part of the letter
from--St. Petersburg.”

“Yes, dear child,” answered Madame de Talmont tenderly. “I am sorry
Henri is not here. He was so anxious about it.”

Henri had gone to Brie, that he might bring to the sorrowing family of
his “true comrade,” Mathieu Féron, what comfort he could--at least the
mournful comfort of certainty.

Madame de Salgues motioned Clémence to a footstool near her. “We
shall be glad to hear of M. Pojarsky,” she said kindly, but as if the
kindness was not quite without an effort.

From the first sheet Clémence read scarcely anything. “He says that his
journey has been prosperous,” she explained in general terms, “but that
he feels a little solitary without--without _us all_.” It must be owned
that this was a very tame and inadequate rendering of the eloquent
original, which she kept to herself. At length she began to read:
“‘You will remember our last expedition to Paris on the day of the
king’s triumphal entry, and Henri’s pleased surprise when he found how
completely the Czar kept himself and his Russians out of sight, only
mingling incognito with the crowd of spectators, that none might say of
the son of St. Louis, “Foreign bayonets have brought him back to his
capital.” You said to me then, “Think what a welcome they will give him
in St. Petersburg! That will be a triumph to throw this one completely
into the shade!” And Henri added, “Would that I could see it! But you
must tell us all about it when you write.” I must--so far as I can; but
it would be impossible to paint the rapture of enthusiasm, of loyalty,
of gratitude with which his return was awaited. Think of it! Russia
not only delivered from her enemies, but set upon a pinnacle of glory
she had never known before. In less than two short years, the invader
driven back from our capital to his own, stripped of the power he had
misused, and hurled from the throne he had disgraced. France conquered,
rescued, forgiven.’”

“If there is much more about the conquest of France, you may pass it
over,” said Madame de Salgues rather tartly. “Of course, M. Pojarsky
writes as a Russian.”

“The honour of France is dear--at least to some Russians,” Clémence
answered with a heightened colour. She went on: “‘Three long days
did the Senate spend in debating what Russia should do to show her
gratitude to the Czar Alexander Paulovitch. Other princes had been
given high-sounding titles, had been styled in their life-time the
Great, the Magnificent, the Invincible, or, still more honourable, the
Well-beloved--and for him surely that would have been appropriate.
But some who knew the heart of our Czar spoke and said, “Such titles
would give the honour to himself alone; let us find one which brings
it back to God. That will please him best.” “Blessed of Heaven” was
the name chosen at last. Would it not have sounded well in the long
and glorious line of our Czars, Alexander Paulovitch, the Blessed of
Heaven? Moreover, they planned to erect in St. Petersburg, in the
Isaac’s Square, a splendid monument, grander than your column of the
Place Vendôme, to celebrate his glory and familiarize to every eye
the names of his victories. They sent a deputation proposing these
things, and at the same time praying him to accept the Grand Order of
St. George, the highest and rarest of our military distinctions; and
to allow them to organize--or rather to _permit_, for the people were
but too willing--public receptions, fêtes, illuminations, on the most
magnificent scale.

“‘I marvel, Clémence, whether you will be disappointed, as I was,
when you hear his answer. In no words but his own can I tell it. This
is what he wrote to the Senate: “I most earnestly desire and implore
the benediction of the Most High upon the nation he has confided to
me, that I may be blessed by my dear and faithful subjects, and, if
possible, by the whole human race. But though I desire to attain this
end, I cannot flatter myself that I have attained it; nor can I permit
myself to accept this surname, for I should give the lie to my own
principles in offering my faithful subjects an example so contrary
to the sentiments of moderation and the spirit of humility that I am
endeavouring to inculcate. Therefore, while expressing my deepest
gratitude, I request the Senate to regard these things as though they
had never been. Raise a monument for me in your hearts, as there is
one for you in mine. May my people bless me, even as I also bless
them. May Russia be happy, and may the Divine benediction rest upon
her and upon me.” “It is for posterity,” he said afterwards, “to erect
me a monument if they think me worthy of it.” The Grand Order of St.
George he declined to accept, because it is only given to a general
who has saved the country from imminent danger, conducted a successful
campaign, or gained a great battle. He had not personally performed
any of these things, he said; though it may be that in this particular
posterity will not agree with him. “This arm,” added he, “has done no
more than another man’s.” As for fêtes, illuminations, and processions,
he requested most earnestly that the money which would have been
expended upon these should be used for the succour of the widows and
orphans made by the war. To insure this as far as he could, he came
back to his capital, unannounced and unattended, some days before he
was expected. He went first to the Church of Kazan to pray, then to the
Winter Palace to see his mother. That was all. Next day there was a
solemn thanksgiving service in the cathedral. I trust that to many of
us it was no empty ceremony, and that the words, “_Not us! not us! but
His name!_” went up from our hearts as well as from our lips.

“‘Yet I will own that at first I was disappointed--and that
_bitterly_--at the self-abnegation of my Czar. But now I am more than
content; I am rejoiced that he has put aside the intoxicating cup that
was borne to his lips. I am learning to see more honour in humility
than in monuments, decorations, high-sounding titles.

“‘He intends soon to hold a levee for the especial benefit of the
officers who have been wounded during the war; and we are invited, each
of us, to state his wants and desires directly to himself. I will not
say that I long for this opportunity--nor perhaps could I say it with
truth. For I _trust_. I leave with perfect confidence my future--_our_
future, which is infinitely more--in the hands of my God and of my
sovereign.

“‘Yesterday I called upon General Soltikoff, who showed me so much
kindness two years ago. He looks greatly aged and broken; indeed, I
fear the days of mourning for the noble old man are at hand. But he was
kind and thoughtful as ever. He told me he had just had the honour of
presenting a memorial to the Czar upon a matter which nearly concerned
me, but that at present he could say no more, as his Imperial Majesty
had expressed a wish to be himself my informant. This has piqued my
curiosity not a little, as you may readily imagine. I conclude he will
speak to me about it at the levee.’”

This was as much of her letter as Clémence saw fit to read aloud. One
more paragraph may, however, be given here: “My beloved, I read every
day the little book you gave me.” (The parting gifts of Clémence to her
betrothed had been the sketch of his mother pencilled by her father’s
hand, and that treasury of heavenward aspiration, so loved by devout
and earnest souls like hers, the “Imitation of Christ.”) “It is grand
and beautiful, but terrible to me. I feel more and more, as I read,
how full of sin, how utterly unworthy and vile I am--how far from
being wholly detached from the world and given up to Christ. Then I
go back to my Bible, and that makes me feel my own unworthiness yet
more deeply; but it also makes me think of the love of God and the
gentleness of Christ, and thinking upon these I have hope. There are
some words of yours that often come to my mind. You said that the day
you saw me first, lying wounded in the hospital, you were surprised and
touched to hear me say I could not help rejoicing in the triumph of my
Czar, though _I_ had no share in it. You said it made you think that if
you truly loved your King and Saviour, you would be able even thus to
rejoice in him, however it might be with yourself. When I read his own
good and gracious words, and think what he is, and what he has done for
us, I seem to understand your meaning. But I am very ignorant; and oh,
how I need you to teach me--you, beloved, so much wiser and better than
I. I often marvel how you deigned to care for me at all. I think it
could not have come about had not a ray of light reflected from my Czar
fallen upon me.” The letter did not by any means end there; but there
may fitly end the extracts presented to the general reader. Of course
many courteous and grateful messages to Madame de Salgues, Madame de
Talmont, and Henri found a place ere it was concluded, and these were
duly delivered by Clémence.

About a week afterwards another letter arrived, and Henri had now
returned to share its tidings. At first Clémence did not read any part
of it aloud; she only told its contents more or less fully. Afterwards
she read some portions of it to her mother. It ran thus:--

            “ST. PETERSBURG, _Wednesday Night_.

    “MY BELOVED,--It is with a full heart--half glad, half
    sorrowful--that I write to thee to-night. God has been good
    to me--good beyond my utmost dreams; for has he not given
    me _thee_? But in the sweetest cup some longed-for drop
    of sweetness is still lacking; in the brightest life some
    brightness is still wanting--some cherished wish ungranted. God
    wills it so, and his will is best. Since my childhood a strong
    untold longing has lain hidden in the depths of my heart. Now
    I know it can never be fulfilled--never on this side of the
    grave. The old hope, the hope of my boyhood and youth, is gone
    from me. I cannot help these few tears which are falling on the
    page as I write. But do not heed them; they are not tears of
    bitterness--for I have been comforted. I am going to tell you
    how.

    “To-day the Imperial reception of which I told you was held for
    the wounded officers. It was crowded. Amongst those who were
    present I saw Count Rostopchine, to whom I shall always feel
    grateful, because he was the first man who gave me work to do,
    and bade me go and do it. He looks ill and haggard. It is said
    he sees nothing day or night except the flames of Moscow. The
    world gives him the credit of the conflagration; and I cannot
    say that in this instance the world is mistaken, although
    hitherto it has been the fashion here to assume that it was
    done by the French. The count has made himself very unpopular
    by his severities towards those who were suspected of favouring
    the invaders, and it is not thought that he will continue in
    office. He has nobly refused to accept any compensation for his
    own enormous losses in the doomed city.

    “I suppose I am writing all this just to make you a sharer in
    my own long suspense and weary waiting. I thought my turn for
    a word from my sovereign would never come, there were so many
    present older than I. Besides, on such occasions his Majesty
    never is in haste. He speaks to each: the words perhaps are
    few, but they are so spoken that each feels that his own
    particular case and circumstances are for the time the sole
    objects of attention. But _my_ five minutes came at last,
    and proved enough to crown my long patience with an abundant
    reward. A kindly question or two about my wound was asked and
    answered; and then, without further preface, the Emperor spoke
    to me of my father. He said that after our first interview
    he had requested General Soltikoff to ascertain whether he
    yet lived, and that, ‘during our absence,’ the general had
    succeeded in obtaining full information about him. ‘He will
    give you the papers to-morrow,’ he added--and paused for a
    moment. Something in his face told me my father was no more,
    and almost unawares the words passed my lips, ‘He is dead,
    sire.’ ‘I wish I could say you are mistaken,’ he answered.
    ‘All was different from what we thought. He was never sent
    to Siberia. At his own earnest and impassioned request--the
    request of a brave man--his punishment was changed to that of
    compulsory service in the army as a private.[56] “Let me show
    my sovereign,” said he, “that although the enemy of Louis of
    France, I am faithful to Catherine of Russia.” Ivan Ivanovitch,
    he redeemed his word nobly, though not to the Czarina. He
    was one of the many gallant men whom I led to their death at
    Austerlitz, on the most unfortunate day of my life.[57] His
    regiment kept its place until not a man was left unwounded.
    Will it comfort you to know that he died a hero’s death, and
    that he died for me?’

    “‘What more could I desire for him, or for myself?’ I said.
    That was nearly all that passed between us. But it was enough.
    I am comforted concerning my father.

    “I cannot write or think of aught else just now. My dear
    unknown father! So unfortunate! So young too--scarce older,
    when the storm burst upon him, than I am now. What agony
    he must have suffered! what desolation! Yet he kept his
    sorely-tried loyalty without a taint; only craving, as his
    last boon, leave to die for the sovereign who drove him from
    her presence with insult, and doomed him to ruin and disgrace.
    Surely his heart was true, whatever baseless, fantastic dreams
    of liberty and equality may have set his brain on fire. The
    Czar says he died a hero’s death, and that he died _for him_.
    Thank God!

    “My Clémence perhaps will wonder that I said nothing to the
    Czar about our future--about my plans, hopes, or prospects.
    Truly I had intended, if the opportunity offered, to have
    spoken of these. But to-day I could not--I could think of no
    subject save one. Forgive me this delay.

    “It is late, but I am still sitting at my desk with that
    precious sketch before me which your father’s hand transferred
    to paper, and your hand placed in mine. My dear mother’s
    face seems to look upon me and to say, ‘I too am comforted
    concerning all I love. Here or elsewhere they are in God’s
    keeping. Never, even in their darkest days, did he wholly take
    away his loving-kindness from them.’

    “To-morrow General Soltikoff is to tell me more. Not _much_
    more, I suppose. Few particulars of the life and death of a man
    degraded to the ranks are ever likely to be known. But had _he_
    told me what I know now, how different everything would have
    seemed to me to-night!

    “Now it is not late, but early. That is really the light of
    dawn, our Northern dawn, which is stealing in pale and faint.
    I must put out my lamp and lie down, first thanking God for
    all his mercies, and praying him to keep me, and those a
    thousand times dearer than myself, in the hollow of his hand.
    Good-night,--my Clémence, my queen, good-night!”

            “_Thursday Morning._

    “I take my pen in haste to add a few lines which will change
    everything for thee and me, Clémence. No, not _change_, only
    clear away our perplexities, and make the crooked places
    straight before us. My last night’s vigil made me rather a late
    sleeper this morning, and I woke to find my servant standing
    by my side, with a large packet in his hand bearing the
    Imperial seal. You may be sure I lost no time in opening it.
    Two separate parchments fell out--one the patent renewing in my
    favour my father’s title of ‘Prince’ Pojarsky, the other the
    title-deeds of his estate, Nicolofsky.[58]

    “I cannot to-day write commonplace words about this; _you_
    will read between the lines, and share the emotions that fill
    my heart. Surely God has dealt well with me--infinitely better
    than I deserve. It only remains now for estate, title, and all
    else that I have and am, to be laid at your feet by your happy,
    grateful, and devoted

            IVAN.”



CHAPTER XXXII.

TWO RETURNS, ONE OF THEM NOT EXPECTED.

  “I keep my master’s noble name
  For warring, not for feasting.”


Although every real obstacle to his marriage was now removed, it was
several months before Ivan found himself at liberty to return to France
and claim his bride. He had to go to Nicolofsky, to see and set in
order his new estate. It is impossible to describe the joy of his old
friends upon that occasion, and the welcome he received from them all,
especially from his foster-parents. One of his earliest acts was to
emancipate the starost and his family, making them at the same time
a present of their homestead. He bestowed a similar favour upon the
mother of Michael; Michael himself, as a soldier, being free already.
To Pope Nikita and his wife he could give little that they cared for,
except kindness and sympathy. They had not recovered from their deep
sorrow for the melancholy fate of his old playfellow, their beloved and
only daughter. Amongst these friends of his boyhood Ivan became once
more a boy. He would sit for hours talking to “bativshka” and to the
company gathered around his hospitable stove, telling them the eventful
story of the war, as well as his own adventures since they parted.

He could not make this first visit a long one; although he consoled
his “serfs,” or rather his friends, with the promise that at no
distant period he would come again and take up his abode amongst
them. He was obliged to return to the capital in time to accompany
the Emperor to the Congress of Vienna, where the brilliant series
of fêtes and spectacles in which the assembled sovereigns displayed
their magnificence made the presence of such a splendid corps as the
Chevalier Guard particularly suitable. But at length he succeeded
in obtaining the desired furlough, and early in February reached
Versailles once more.

He found Clémence unchanged, except that the months of separation had
added, in his eyes, to her grace and loveliness. Madame de Talmont
looked at least ten years younger since the return of her son; but
Henri himself seemed older, and wore a grave if not a troubled aspect.
Madame de Salgues also was ageing quickly: Henri told Ivan she was
anxious about Emile, who had more than once been in danger for acts of
boyish insolence and bravado, such as tearing white cockades from the
breasts of their wearers, and giving a jovial supper to his companions
on the 21st of January, the anniversary of the execution of Louis XVI.

“A wise government,” said Henri during a quiet walk with Ivan in the
park of Versailles, “would disregard these follies, and a strong
government could very well afford to do it. But I fear the government
of Louis Dix-huit is not either wise or strong. He and his courtiers
seem to forget that the world has turned round more than once since
1789. There is not a little discontent amongst the people, and there is
much, very much amongst the military.”

“Do _you_ intend to embrace a military life, Henri?”

Henri shuddered. “_Never_, if I can help it. My experience of
soldiering was too terrible.”

“I do not think you need anticipate another Moscow campaign,” returned
Ivan.

“Still,” pursued Henri, “if my country were in danger, I trust I
should not be found lacking. My mother is exceedingly anxious to see me
in the army. But my own tastes lead me in a direction quite different.”

“To the bar, perhaps, or the Church?”

“My mother and my aunt think these the only rational alternatives. They
talk grandly of ‘la noblesse de la robe;’ but I confess I do not care
for the career of a lawyer, nor do I think I have the talents necessary
to insure success in it. While as for the Church,--may I speak my whole
mind to you in confidence, Prince Ivan?”

“Certainly you may, my dear friend.”

“I am a sincere and earnest believer in Christianity,” Henri said. “I
have heard the voice of God in the stormy wind and tempest, in the snow
and hail which fulfilled his will. But since I have begun to study that
will as revealed in his own Word, a suspicion I cannot dismiss grows
and strengthens within me,--I fear some of the rites and doctrines of
the Church in which I have been brought up are not in accordance with
it.”

These words awakened for the first time in the mind of Ivan the thought
that any real or important divergence might exist between the different
forms of Christianity. Hitherto the world for him had contained two
classes only--believers and infidels. These he found and expected
to find everywhere--in the “orthodox” Church of his own country,
amongst the Catholics of France and the Lutherans of Prussia. The idea
suggested by Henri was so new to him that he paused for some moments to
consider it before he answered, speaking slowly and with deliberation,
“I am sorry you are troubled with such thoughts, Henri; for doubting
keeps us from doing, and it seems to me that there is a great deal to
be done in the world, and little time enough to do it. On the other
hand, you would not have the doubts if God had not sent them to you.
You are not doubting _him_; you are only doubting in what manner you
can serve him best. So you must face your doubts and answer them, one
way or the other. God will be with you, and lead you to the light. But
in the meantime you need not sit idle.”

“True, most true. I am longing to work for God, who has done so much
for me. Besides, what right have I to sit with folded hands, a burden
upon my aunt? ‘If any man will not work, neither shall he eat.’ But
it is much easier to say what I can’t do than what I can. My mother
thinks so few things possible to one who has the misfortune, as I feel
disposed to call it, of being nobly born.”

“What would you like to do, in your heart of hearts, Henri?”

“If I tell you, will you laugh at me, Prince Ivan?”

“Not I! Why should I? When I was a boy I could plough a straight
furrow, and I was a fair hand with the reaping-hook. You cannot fancy
any occupation lowlier than these.”

“I should like to use, not a plough, but a pencil and pair of
compasses. At Vilna I lodged in the house of an architect, and spent
much of my leisure over his books. I was always fond of mathematics,
which are useful in that line. Prince Ivan, if you want to build a
palace on your new estate, I shall be most happy to design it for you.”

Ivan made him a profound bow, then turned and laid his hand on his
shoulder. “Come to Russia with us,” he said warmly. “Never was there
a better opening for your genius. Think of all Moscow to be rebuilt!
Russia ought to be the El Dorado of architects for twenty years to
come.”

“Are you jesting, Prince Ivan?”

“Never was I more in earnest. The Czar will give you a welcome; and
the rather because he shares your tastes himself. In his brief moments
of leisure he often amuses himself by taking up a pencil and drawing
a design for a public building. So he knows how to appreciate what is
good.”

“But--my mother. Already her heart is torn by the thought of parting
with Clémence.”

“Why need there be any parting? I think we could make her happy at
Nicolofsky or St. Petersburg. I have often thought about this, and what
you have said to me now gives me the courage to propose it.”

“Do you intend to leave the army?” Henri asked in his turn, perhaps
with some desire to change a subject upon which he was conscious of
having said more than he intended.

“I do, as soon as peace is thoroughly settled. Of course, until then it
cannot be thought of. At the Congress things sometimes looked doubtful
enough.”

“That affair of the kingdom of Poland seems to be causing a great deal
of trouble,” said Henri. “More than it is worth, _I_ should say; but
the Czar does not seem to think so.”

“When did _not_ an old wrong cause an infinity of trouble to the man
who tries to repair it? By some strange fatality, it is upon him
the punishment generally comes, not upon the man who did it,” Ivan
answered. “Those ‘designs’ upon Poland, for which many who ought to
know better are now loudly blaming the Czar, simply mean two things--to
Russia an assured peace, guaranteed by a strong, well-defended
frontier; and to Poland the longed-for ‘unity,’ with as much of
the longed-for ‘independence’ as she is fit to have and capable of
using.”[59]

“It seems a strange way of repaying the Poles for having gone away _en
masse_ after Napoleon,” said Henri.

“It is the way of my Czar,” returned Ivan proudly. “Did you ever
hear what passed between him and Kosakoski, the most devoted of
Napoleon’s Polish adherents? ‘Is it true that you followed Napoleon
to Fontainebleau?’ asked the Czar. ‘Yes, sire,’ returned the Pole who
certainly had the courage of his opinions. ‘I was with him till he left
it; and then, if he had asked me to go with him, I would have done
it.’ The Czar was silent for a moment, then he asked him, ‘What is it
you wish for most?’ ‘The restoration of my property,’ said Kosakoski.
The Czar immediately wrote an order to that effect, and gave it to
him. It is well known that his heart, since his boyhood, has yearned
to heal the wounds and to atone for the wrongs of Poland. The Polish
hostage, Czartoriski, was the friend of his youth; and in their long
confidential talks they planned together to build the old waste places
and gather the scattered members of the oppressed nationality. Now
Czartoriski reproaches him with doing far too little; while Russia,
loyal but perplexed, suspects him of doing too much; and Europe accuses
him of caring for nothing but the extension of his own frontier. And
your King, Louis Dix-huit,” continued Ivan with some bitterness, “to
whom he gave a throne, treats him as an enemy.” They had almost reached
their home when this was said, so Henri was spared the necessity of a
rejoinder, nor did he greatly care to make one, Legitimist though he
was.

Many a happy talk had Clémence and Ivan in those days about things
past and future--things seen and unseen. Their engagement was now
openly avowed; the trousseau of the bride was in preparation, and all
was arranged except the wedding-day. Madame de Salgues was becoming
reconciled to an alliance which would give her niece the title of
Princess, and was lavish in her presents of jewellery and costly laces.
Since the Restoration her life had become less secluded; many of the
returned _émigrés_ frequented her house, and found the young Russian
prince, the _futur_ of Mademoiselle Clémence, a very pleasant addition
to their society.

One evening Madame de Salgues gave an entertainment to a few of her
friends. It was a supper, refined and elegant, but unpretending, such
as, in her own words, “used to be _de bon ton_ before the Revolution
and the bourgeoisie spoiled everything, when we did not come together
to eat and to drink, but to converse and to enjoy one another’s
society.”

Upon this occasion her guests thoroughly fulfilled her expectations,
with the exception of the youngest of the party. Stéphanie de Sartines,
like a spoiled child, had importuned her father to allow her to accept
Madame de Salgues’s invitation; but having gained her point, she sat
absorbed and silent, refusing to eat or to speak, and devoting herself
to the contemplation of her idolized friend Clémence, from whom she was
so soon to be separated. Ivan pitied the sad-faced little girl, and
remembering her exploits at their first meeting, sought to console her
with the most tempting of bonbons and preserved fruits; but he could
elicit nothing beyond a melancholy “No, thank you, monsieur.”

“You should say M. le Prince, my daughter,” her father corrected.

“En Russie tout faquin est prince,”[60] observed the audacious Emile to
his neighbour, M. de Cranfort.

The latter, though disposed to regard Ivan in the light of a successful
rival, resented the discourtesy of Emile, and showed it by asking
coldly, “What do you say, sir?”

“Don’t you know the story? Before the war broke out the Czar sent
Prince Tufaquin as ambassador to the court of the Emperor, who, during
their first interview, called him nothing but ‘Monsieur.’ One of
the bystanders afterwards told him of the title borne by the envoy.
‘J’ignorais qu’en Russie _tout faquin_ est prince,’ was his answer.”

“General Buonaparte was a parvenu,” said M. de Cranfort; “therefore it
was not altogether his fault if he mistook rudeness for wit.”

Emile “knew when he was beaten,” perhaps because he was not an
Englishman; so he turned from M. de Cranfort to Stéphanie, whom he
heard deploring that Prince Ivan was going to take Clémence away from
them into Russia, where she would be frozen to death in the long cold
winter, or eaten by the bears. He bent over her with a comic air of
gallantry, and prayed her to be comforted. “_I_ am infinitely more
devoted to you than Mademoiselle Clémence could ever be,” he said;
“and, mademoiselle, _I_ am not going to Russia.”

But he was scarcely more fortunate here. “Of course you are not,”
returned the young lady sharply, her dark eyes flashing. “I heard
a gentleman tell my father that the Czar is inviting all manner of
clever, capable people to go to Russia; but for any one who is--who is,
well, just _ordinary_, you know, he has no particular welcome.”

In the meantime Stéphanie’s allusion to Russian bears had occasioned
remark. Ivan told some stories about them which were rather amusing
than terrible; for bears, like nobler animals who run away when
they are attacked, sometimes make themselves ridiculous. Amidst the
laughter which followed, Madame de Salgues’s valet made a whispered
communication--“Madame, there is an old soldier without, who wishes to
speak with the young gentleman.”

“With what young gentleman?”

“The young gentleman of the house, he says, madame.”

“Then ask M. de Talmont to go to him at once, and see what he wants,”
said Madame de Salgues with a nervous air. The capital and its environs
swarmed with old soldiers of Napoleon, who were needy and discontented,
longing for any kind of political change, and in the meantime, if
report said true, not always despising robbery and violence as less
desirable but still legitimate means of repairing their ruined fortunes.

Henri went into the hall, closing the door behind him. He saw in the
lamp-light a tall, gaunt figure, wrapped in an old greatcoat, which
covered a shabby uniform, but did not conceal the cross and two medals
glittering on the breast of the faded tunic.

“I beg your pardon, monsieur,” said the soldier in a voice Henri seemed
to recognize. “It was not you I wished to see, but the young gentleman
who belongs to the Ecole Polytechnique.”

“Surely I know you--surely I have seen you somewhere,” said Henri,
looking attentively at the bronzed, weather-beaten features of the old
man.

The veteran shook his head. “You have the advantage of me, monsieur,”
he said.

But after another brief scrutiny a light flashed over the mind of
Henri, reflecting itself in his face. He advanced cordially and took
the soldier’s bony hand in his. “Pierre Rougeard of the Old Guard,” he
said, “I am heartily glad to see you. I thought you were with the dead.”

It was natural that the young conscript should remember the old
Guardsman who had befriended him in his hour of need far better than
the Guardsman could remember the conscript. Henri was greatly changed,
while scarcely anything on this side of the grave could change the
hard, weather-beaten features of Rougeard. He was obliged to recall the
past to his recollection. “Never,” said he, “did banquet seem so sweet
to me as that repast of horse-flesh to which you bade me welcome by
your bivouac fire on the Smolensko road. But we gave you up for lost
that terrible day before we crossed the Beresina.”

“I was made prisoner,” Rougeard answered. “But I fell into good hands,
and was kindly treated. At the Peace of Paris I came home with the
rest--though it is home no longer without the Emperor,” he added with a
sigh.

“You must have much to tell,” Henri rejoined; and as the valet passed
through the hall, he said to him, “Alphonse, this is an old friend of
mine who showed me much kindness while I was in Russia. Take the best
care you can of him. By-and-by,” he said to Rougeard, “we will finish
our conversation.”

He returned to the salon, and related what had passed to Madame de
Salgues. That lady, with the characteristic love of a Frenchwoman for
a little scene, must needs have the old Guardsman brought in, that he
might drink the health of Henri, and receive the acknowledgments of his
friends for the kindness he had shown him.

So Henri fetched Rougeard, who listened to a little speech from Madame
de Salgues, had his hand shaken by Madame de Talmont and Clémence, and
emptied a brimming goblet of champagne poured out for him by Emile.

As he gave back the goblet, he bent forward and whispered a word or
two, which made the lad--unused as he was to self-control--utter an
involuntary cry of amazement, and drop the glass upon the ground.

Of course every one started and looked at him; and Madame de Salgues
asked in alarm, “What is the matter?”

“Nothing,” said Emile in confusion, stooping to collect the fragments
of the broken glass.

“Nothing indeed,” repeated the terrible Stéphanie. “You need not be
alarmed, madame; I heard every word he said, and it was only this,
‘_The little corporal has come back_.’ M. Emile, who is the little
corporal?”

Well might she ask the question, for “all faces gathered blackness.”
The party of friends, just before so glad and gay, looked as if a shell
had suddenly burst amongst them. M. de Sartines was the first to find a
voice. “Garde,” he said, turning solemnly to Rougeard, “since you have
spoken these words you are bound to explain them. I daresay it is mere
rumour,” he added, addressing the ladies.

For a moment Rougeard stood irresolute. He had come to impart his
tidings to Emile, whom he knew already as an ardent Buonapartist,
ready to venture his life in the good cause; but to proclaim them in
the midst of a circle of Royalists had been far from his intention.
However, he soon recovered his composure. To-morrow all Paris would
know the truth; what did it matter about a few hours? With a simple
dignity which was not unbecoming, he answered M. de Sartines, “I have
the honour, monsieur, to belong to the Old Guard, therefore I have
heard to-day what you will all hear to-morrow. The Emperor has set his
foot once more upon the soil of France. He has landed near Fréjus, in
the Gulf of St. Juan.”

“Then by this time he is a prisoner, if he is not shot, or hanged upon
the nearest tree,” said De Cranfort; while Emile sprang to his feet,
and shouted, “Vive Napoléon!”

“If my grandson cannot behave at my table like a gentleman, I will
thank him to leave it,” said Madame de Salgues with a sternness that
amazed every one, and was not without its effect upon Emile, who was
accustomed to nothing from her but extreme indulgence.

Ivan, though his own thoughts were sufficiently sorrowful, felt a
compassion for the boy, and a dread, not altogether groundless, of what
he might be tempted to do if provoked. Turning to his hostess, near
whom he sat, he said to her, unheard by the others, “Madame, I pray of
you do not be hard with him. Do not let him leave us in this way. His
exclamation was natural. I should certainly have done the same had I
heard the Czar was coming.”

Cranfort caught the last words, and said with petulance, “It is all his
fault.”

“Whose fault?” asked a quiet, elderly abbé, invited because Madame
de Salgues thought no party perfect without a slight, a very slight
ecclesiastical flavour.

“The fault of the Czar, M. l’Abbé,” returned Cranfort, raising his
voice, for the abbé sat at the other side of the table. “If the
Corsican adventurer succeeds in erecting his standard once more, and
torrents of blood are spilt, it will be the result of the imprudent
generosity of the Emperor Alexander. No one can pretend that he was not
warned. M. de Talleyrand and every man of sense knew that Elba was no
place for Buonaparte. It was keeping a lighted candle at the door of
the powder-magazine.”

“It did not require the wit of Talleyrand to find _that_ out,” said
M. de Sartines. “The Emperor Alexander may have had political motives
of his own sufficient to explain his conduct. Most probably he had. If
not, his championship of the Buonapartes does honour possibly to his
heart, but little enough to his understanding.”

Ivan was about to speak, but Henri, with a quick motion of his hand,
arrested him. “Not one word, Prince Ivan,” he said in a voice low
and tremulous with suppressed emotion. “Not one word from your lips
to-night! It is I--I whose life he saved--who must defend him. And
from what? Is it from the charge of sparing the fallen? of being too
generous, too merciful, too trusting? There are very few who need
exculpation from such charges. And I, who but for that mercy of his
would now be lying in a nameless grave at Vilna, will not sit by
and hear them.--Messieurs, I am a man of peace; I hate strife and
bloodshed; and I thought that never again should this right hand of
mine touch sword or pistol. Yet I am ready, either now or hereafter,
with sword or pistol, or both, for any gentleman, or any number of
gentlemen, who may desire to meet me in this quarrel.”

“Quel tapage!” muttered Emile. “One man may raise a fine commotion
where another may not breathe a word!”

Madame de Talmont was terrified by a vehemence so foreign to the
character of her son. She interposed, explaining that no harm had been
intended, and entreating him to recollect himself. M. de Sartines also
hastened to apologize. “I was not aware, monsieur,” he said, “that you
were under personal obligations to the Czar. Still I cannot hold myself
excused, for I should not have used so much freedom in the presence of
M. le Prince. I hope he will be good enough to pardon me.”

“No need of that, monsieur,” returned Ivan. “The more freely the
conduct of my sovereign is discussed by every loyal Frenchman the more
will be his honour. The Czar,” he added proudly, “has saved Europe
once. If need be, he will do so again.”

Shortly afterwards the guests departed. Henri drew Ivan aside. “You
will be obliged to leave us?” he said in a low voice.

“Yes,” Ivan answered gravely. “After what we have just heard, I must go
immediately to my Czar.”

Henri’s voice dropped still lower, and laying his hand on the shoulder
of his friend, he said a few earnest words. Ivan answered in the same
tone; then, with a countenance wonderfully brightened, he left the room.

When he was gone, Henri said earnestly, turning to his mother and his
aunt, “Clémence and Ivan belong to each other already in the sight of
God; why should they not do so also in the sight of man? Months, if not
more, may elapse before Ivan can return--a long and dangerous campaign,
perhaps two, may intervene--how much better a hasty marriage than the
wearing suspense and anxiety of a protracted engagement?”

“What difference can it make?” asked Madame de Salgues. “Clémence must
of course remain here until things are settled.”

“A very great difference,” Madame de Talmont answered. “As a wife,
he can send for her and she can go to him should anything untoward
happen--which God forbid,” she added with a trembling lip. “God
alone knows what comfort there is in having the right to tend, or to
mourn.--Henri, I entirely agree with you.”

“It occurs to me that there is some one else whose consent will have to
be obtained,” Madame de Salgues observed.

Henri smiled. “I believe Ivan is this very moment engaged in obtaining
it,” he said.

“That being the case,” said Madame de Salgues, “and after the opinion
your mother has just expressed, it only remains for us to arrange
details.”

The next morning Clémence and Ivan were married quietly in the parish
church of Versailles. It is possible that the young Russian gave a
passing sigh of regret to the touching and beautiful ceremonies of
his own ritual, which he was obliged to forego. Gladly would “Ivan
the servant of God” have been “crowned with Clémence the handmaid of
God,” as it is the use and wont to do with brides and bridegrooms in
the Greco-Russian Church. But what did it signify? He was more than
content--he was unspeakably thankful for all that was given him by God
and by man.

There was a simple _déjeûner_, the only guests outside the family
circle being M. de Sartines and Stéphanie, who was greatly consoled
by her dignity of bridesmaid. There were brave, loving farewells; and
then Ivan rode away to rejoin his comrades and to do his duty in the
conflicts that might yet lie before him and them.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

HIS KING SPEAKS TO THE CZAR.

  “Yea, thou wilt answer for me, righteous Lord!
  Thine all the sorrow, mine the great reward:
  Thine the sharp thorns, and mine the golden crown;
  Mine the life won, and thine the life laid down.”


It is amongst the minor yet very real troubles of life that
promptitude, courage, and self-denial so often appear to be wasted. The
call to action reaches our ear: we spring up responsive, buckle on our
armour, and hasten to the front,--only to hear the bugles sounding the
retreat, and to find that the conflict has been adjourned _sine die_.
So it happened to Ivan. He was stopped on his way to Vienna by tidings
that the Chevalier Guard was now in Poland with the main body of the
Russian army. To Poland accordingly he went; but only to linger in
enforced idleness day after day, even week after week, first at Wiasma,
and then at Prague. He could not dismiss the thought,--Might he not
just as well have spent all this time with his bride at Versailles? He
certainly might, except for the important consideration that it can
never be just as well for a man to neglect his duty as to do it.

Meanwhile the accounts from France added to his perplexity and
uneasiness. Napoleon, received everywhere with open arms by the
military, swept through the land like an unresisted torrent, and on the
19th of March entered the capital once more. Louis XVIII. abandoned it
at his approach without striking a blow--a pusillanimity which made
old Royalists like De Sartines and De Cranfort hang their heads with
shame. It was natural that Ivan should feel the deepest anxiety about
the household at Versailles, and for the sake of those so dear to him
he could not be otherwise than thankful that a battle had been avoided,
although on more public grounds it grieved him to the heart that
Napoleon had succeeded so easily in establishing himself once more in
Paris.

During his stay in Prague, Ivan was cheered by a letter from Clémence,
bearing the impress of her own true, tender, and courageous spirit.
Henri wrote also, giving a more detailed account of public events;
and Emile contributed a version of his own, which was by no means
unwelcome. The student of the Polytechnique wrote as though the
entire glory of bringing back the Emperor belonged to him and his
schoolfellows; and he exhorted Prince Ivan not to be in the least
uneasy about the family at Versailles, assuring him that they would
enjoy _his_ powerful friendship and protection, with a naïve simplicity
that gave his correspondent a hearty laugh. “But after all,” thought
Ivan, “some atonement is due to the vanity of Emile, which used to
suffer so often from the keen though polished thrusts of his Legitimist
friends.”

All this time a burden of pain and apprehension lay heavy on the heart
of Ivan. It was probable that by the return of Buonaparte from Elba,
the great work of the Czar would be undone; it was already certain
that his expectations were frustrated and his predictions falsified.
He intended to do good, and the good had become the occasion of
evil. Every mouth was opened now to reproach him with the untoward
results of his chivalrous kindness to the vanquished. “You see, sire,”
said Francis of Austria, “what has occurred in consequence of your
protection of the Liberals and the Buonapartists.” “We are far,” said
Talleyrand, “from accusing that greatness of soul which treated a
conquered Power almost like a conqueror; but at least we cannot accuse
ourselves of the imprudent generosity we admired but could not prevent,
though we have now become the victims of it.” Doubtless Talleyrand only
expressed the sentiments of all the Royalists of France; yet it was as
well for him that he did not at that time fall in with the Emperor of
Russia’s Chevalier Guard. But infinitely worse to Alexander than all
these reproaches was the imminent prospect of another great war, to
water the soil of Europe with blood and tears, and renew the horrors
it had been the dearest wish of his heart to terminate. Ivan was not
surprised when a report reached him that the Czar was ill at Vienna. He
knew--he was not likely ever to forget--that each remembrance of the
useless slaughter at Austerlitz touched the chords of a lasting sorrow.
He had heard of the terrible months of depression that followed the
murder of the Emperor Paul, when the attendants of the new sovereign
trembled for his reason or his life; nay, he himself had witnessed a
partial recurrence of the same depression at the time of the death of
Moreau. The sad face of his Czar, as he had seen it then, haunted him
day and night, and from the very depths of his heart the cry went up to
heaven, “O God, uphold and comfort thy servant, who putteth his trust
in thee!”

At last the long-wished-for marching orders came, and the early days
of June saw the head-quarters of the Russian army established in
Heidelberg, under the personal command of the Czar.

To the great joy of Ivan he looked well, and what surprised him still
more, instead of the expected depression, there was such brightness
in his countenance, such cheerfulness in his whole demeanour, that
he thought some specially good tidings must have arrived. Meeting
his friend Tolstoi, he asked him if such were the case. But Tolstoi
reported, on the authority of his uncle the Grand Marshal, that there
were no good tidings, but rather the reverse. Matters, he said, looked
very serious. It was to be feared the whole strength of the Allies
would be required to overthrow Napoleon, and a plan of united action
was being arranged amongst them. The Czar was only anxious to do
what was best for the general welfare, and it was probable he would
be called upon to make the first attack; but time and place were as
yet uncertain. “If I were the Czar,” Tolstoi added indignantly, “I
would see every Bourbon of them all drowned in the Seine before I
would stir a finger to save them. You have heard of the practices
of M. Talleyrand--how the old fox induced King Louis to enter into
a secret treaty against us with the other Powers before the return
of Buonaparte, who found the precious document on a table in the
Tuileries, where it had been left behind by accident, and sent it to
the Czar, just to show him what sort of friends he had.”

“No, I did not hear that,” said Ivan, keenly interested. “Well, what
did the Czar do?”

“Put it into the fire. ‘It is not _I_ who am to be thought of,’ he
said, ‘but the peace of the world.’ I think, Prince Ivan, something
else will be thought of if we take Paris again and M. de Talleyrand
sees fit to stay there.”

Ivan had abundance of leisure at this time, some of which he spent in
wandering about the beautiful environs of Heidelberg, looking at the
picturesque old town from the “Angel’s Meadow,” or watching the sun
go down behind the shadowy purple hills. He sometimes prolonged these
rambles until late in the evening, enjoying the solitude, for thought
was busy within him, and had endless materials upon which to work.

On one of these occasions he strayed into a hilly path, secluded from
general observation, and found that it led to a cottage, in the window
of which a light was placed. He drew nearer, intending to ask his way;
for he was surprised to find himself in a place probably not more than
a mile from the town, and yet so entirely new to him. As he approached,
he was struck by the singular air of neatness which distinguished a
dwelling that in size and appearance was little more than a labourer’s
cabin. Presently he became aware that two or three other persons were
toiling up the pathway. An old man, with a consumptive-looking girl
leaning upon his arm, attracted his attention, and after a courteous
salutation, he inquired of him in French, “Who lives yonder?”

“That is the dwelling of the French lady who speaks so beautifully
about our Lord Jesus Christ,” returned the old man in the same
language. “There is to be a prayer-meeting to-night, and Adèle and
I are going. Will you come too, monsieur? It will do you no harm to
remember your Creator in the days of your youth.”

“I trust I do remember him,” said Ivan frankly; “but I shall be glad to
come in. I suppose you are all Catholics here?”

“The good French lady is a Catholic, but the young minister who
expounds the Scriptures and prays at the meetings is an ‘Evangelical,’
as they call it, from Switzerland. But they both love the Lord Jesus
Christ, and talk as if they had seen him face to face.”

“Ay, indeed they do,” the girl said timidly. “They make you feel him so
near.”

The old man looked at her affectionately. “The visits of Madame, and
the little meetings in her cottage, have indeed been new life to thee,
my child,” he said.--“You cannot think, monsieur, what a change there
is in her--how much stronger and better she is since these happy
thoughts have come to us.”

“It is true,” the girl assented. “Last year I thought I was dying; and
oh, monsieur, the grave seemed so dark, so awful! Now the fear of death
is quite gone, thank God. Still I think He means to let me stay here a
little longer, and I am glad--if it is his will.”

“Come, dear,” said her grandfather; “the door is open.--Come,
monsieur.”

Ivan hesitated. “Shall I be welcome?” he asked.

“Oh yes, monsieur. There is a gentleman, the son-in-law of Madame, I
believe, who is always there, and another, a tall and handsome officer,
who is seldom absent. He seems to be a devout soldier, like Cornelius
of old. The rest are only friends--people like ourselves.”

Ivan went in, took a seat on a bench beside his new friends, crossed
himself, and bowed his head for a moment in prayer, then looked about
him. It was now late, and the little room was lighted, somewhat dimly,
with candles of an ordinary kind. Fortunately he was placed where he
could clearly see the very striking face and figure of the lady whom
Adèle pointed out to him with the one whispered word--“Madame.” Her
hair was silver, her face worn and haggard, with the look “of one that
had travailed sore.” Less than fifty she could not have been--Ivan
thought her much more; but hers had been one of those intense and
passionate lives which are measured “not by months and years,” but by
fears and hopes, by joys and sorrows, perhaps by raptures and despairs.
There was fire in her dark eyes, and upon her pale and wasted features
an expression at once of dreamy mysticism and of ecstatic ardour. In
youth she had been very beautiful, but no mere physical beauty could
survive the storms that had swept over her. Yet some better thing had
come to her in place of her faded loveliness; so at least they said who
saw her when she spoke of that which was God’s special gift and message
to her soul--“the love of Christ which passeth knowledge.” It was this
secret whispered in her ear that, in spite of many errors and some
serious faults, made Julie de Krudener a power for good in her day and
generation. She had this treasure in an earthen vessel--in one that was
flawed and well-nigh broken; but she had it, and gave of it to others.

Though Ivan could read little of this in her face, yet he was greatly
struck by its expression. “She ought to be a sibyl or a prophetess,”
he thought. The persons on either side of her scarcely attracted his
attention at all; they were her son-in-law, the Baron de Berckheim, and
a young Swiss pastor, whom Adèle called M. Empaytaz.

Just as the clock in an adjoining apartment began to strike, the door
opened once more, and an officer of tall and commanding aspect entered
the room. He went quietly to what was evidently his accustomed place,
close to one of the lights, laid a Bible which he had brought with
him on the table, and sat down. Ivan found it as much as he could do
to suppress a cry of amazement--for it was the Czar. But he held his
peace, and neither by look nor sign betrayed what he felt.

A prayer was offered, in which Ivan was far too bewildered to join; he
scarcely even observed that it was unlike any prayer he had ever heard
before, being extempore. Then the young pastor opened his Bible, read a
passage, and began to expound it. But Ivan heard little; for he could
not withdraw his eyes from the Czar, who was listening intently to
every word, and who found and read every passage of Scripture referred
to, making constant use of the little eye-glass he always carried in
his sleeve.[61]

After some time, however, it occurred to Ivan that what interested the
Czar so deeply ought to interest him too. Surely some mysterious power
must dwell in the words which could thus enchain a soul already filled
with weighty cares, tremendous responsibilities, soaring projects. Of
what was the pastor speaking?

A sentence reached his ear that caught and held his thoughts, making
him also an absorbed and eager listener. It would not be true to say
that he forgot thenceforward the presence of the Czar--_that_ would
have been impossible--but he felt it only as an influence which added
a conclusive weight of evidence and a potent undefinable charm to all
that was said.

The pastor’s theme was the forgiveness of sins, a subject now full of
interest for Ivan. He had long outgrown the stage of spiritual life
in which he said that he felt no “abyss” within him. Prayer, study of
the Scriptures, and intercourse with Clémence had by this time taught
him much of the hidden evil of his own heart. Of his sins he could say
now in uttermost sincerity, “The remembrance of them is grievous unto
me; the burden of them is intolerable.” How he was to be relieved of
that burden had never been very clear to him. He knew that pardon had
come to mankind through Christ, and that it was connected in some way
with his death upon the cross; but how it was to reach his own need, to
avail for his own sin, he scarcely knew. He supposed that he ought to
read his Bible and to pray, to repent truly, to obey God in all things,
and to put his whole trust in him; and this was what for some time past
he had been earnestly endeavouring to do.

But this new teacher, to whose voice his Czar was listening with such
reverence, spoke of the death of Christ as an atonement not merely for
the sins of the world, but for the special transgressions of each and
every believer in him. “I can say,” he added, “to each one present
here, ‘_Thy_ sin was laid upon him.’ Whoso believes in him, accepts
the grace he offers, is forgiven and justified through him. Such has,
even now, everlasting life, and cannot come into condemnation, but has
passed from death unto life.”

Ivan listened, wondering. Could this indeed be true? Might it be
possible for him to leave that room, not as he had entered it, hoping,
praying, longing to be one day forgiven and accepted of God, but in
actual present possession of that priceless boon? This “glad evangel”
would have seemed to him far too glad to be anything more than a
beautiful dream, had not the radiant countenance of the Czar given
the clearest evidence that _he_ believed it. When the lecture was
concluded--and to Ivan it seemed far too short--he hastened home to
search his well-worn Testament, and to find out, if he could, from its
pages whether these things were so.

After some hours of reading and prayer he reached the conclusion that
it was he himself who had hitherto been blind and stupid. He marvelled
that he had not earlier discovered what now seemed to shine upon him
from every page of the Book he loved--the glorious truth of present
forgiveness and acceptance through faith in Christ. And thus that night
one who had hitherto only “believed” dimly and afar off “on the name
of the Son of God” came to “know that he had eternal life,” and to
“believe” consciously and fully “on the name of the Son of God.”[62]

A strange new joy burst upon his soul, flooding it with sunshine. He
knelt down and thanked God for teaching him this truth. He could say
now “_my_ God” and “_my_ Saviour.” He knew now what was meant by those
words of the apostle, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have
peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

At length he rose from his knees, went to the window of his apartment
and looked out. The town clock had just struck the second hour after
midnight. The scene without was calm and still, sleeping in the soft
summer moonlight. It seemed to Ivan a beautiful world, over which God
was watching, and which he had so loved as to send his Son to die for
it. “To die for _me_!” he said in his heart. “What can I do to show my
love and gratitude to him?”

As he stood looking out, a solitary figure passed down the silent empty
street. Ivan saw it was the Czar, who was only then returning from
the cottage on the hill. His attendants were well accustomed to their
master’s habit of taking long and lonely walks, and his absence, even
for many hours, would occasion neither question nor remark. If, instead
of communing with nature, he chose to spend the midnight hours in
prayer and study of the Scriptures, none need know it.

But Ivan suddenly remembered that a grand review of the whole Imperial
Guard was to take place that morning at six o’clock, so he dismissed
the idea of writing at once to tell Clémence the wonders he had
witnessed, and wisely threw himself upon his pallet to snatch a few
hours of necessary slumber.

When he came to the parade-ground in the morning he felt like one
bewildered. There, in the midst of his brilliant staff, their uniforms
glistening with gold and jewels, and the costly trappings of their
magnificent horses glancing in the sunlight, stood the Czar, at once
the centre and the heart of all that martial pomp and pride. As Ivan,
in his place in the Chevalier Guard, advanced, retreated, wheeled to
the right or the left, in instant obedience to the word of command
that issued from those imperial lips, he wondered silently which was
the dream--this splendid pageant, or the scene last night in the lowly
cottage; but when he looked again upon the calm and joyous face of the
Czar he knew that both were real.

It was not until long afterwards that he heard the story of how God
had spoken to the heart of the Czar. Madame de Krudener for some time
past had been acquainted with the Empress Elizabeth, and other persons
belonging to the Russian Court. What she heard from every one of the
noble character of Alexander awakened in her mind an intense desire to
be of use to him. “I have great things to say to him,” she wrote to a
friend; “for I have felt much upon his account. My business is to be
without fear and without reproach, his to be at the feet of Christ.”
Such impulses are sent from above.

It was late in the night of the 4th of June. Alexander sat in his
quarters at Heilbronn, depressed and weary, trying to read a book of
devotion, but unable to profit by what he read. He had heard of the
conversations of Madame de Krudener with his wife, and the thought
passed through his mind, “I wish she would come and talk to me.” At
that moment his confidential attendant, Volkonski, entered the room,
and told him, with much ill-humour, that there was a lady in the
ante-chamber who insisted upon seeing him, notwithstanding the lateness
of the hour.

“I cannot get rid of her, sire,” said the irritated aide-de-camp.

Alexander inquired her name.

“_Madame de Krudener._”

“Ask her to come in,” said the Emperor. He afterwards told a friend
that he felt as though he were dreaming, so strange did the coincidence
appear to him.

Madame de Krudener entered. Certainly she did not fear the face of man.
She prophesied no smooth things to the monarch of all the Russias.
Perhaps she scarcely knew how far God had led him already; for she
told him, with uncompromising boldness, that never yet had he come to
the foot of the cross with the prayer of the publican on his lips,
and that until he did so there could be neither pardon nor peace for
him. Much more she added, perhaps not altogether wisely; but since she
held up Christ and his cross before him, there was power in her words
to reach and to bless a heart which had been prepared of the Lord to
receive them. Seeing him affected even to tears, she apologized for her
boldness, and would have paused, but he entreated her to go on. This
proved the first of numerous interviews.

Many a quiet talk over the Bible, prolonged into the hours of the
early morning, took place in the labourer’s cottage at Heidelberg,
where Madame de Krudener had established herself in order to be near
the Emperor. The young Swiss pastor, Empaytaz, who shared in these
conversations, has left a brief record of them. One day he summoned
courage to ask the Emperor plainly, “Sire, have you now peace with God?
Are you assured of the pardon of your sins?”

Alexander was not a man who could hear or answer such a question
without emotion. For a time he was silent, apparently questioning his
own heart. Then “it seemed as if a dark veil was lifted from his face,”
and he looked up and answered, “Yes, I am happy--I am very happy. I
have peace, even the peace of God. I am a great sinner; but since
Madame”--glancing towards Madame de Krudener, who was present--“has
shown me that Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost, I
know and believe that my sins are pardoned. The Word of God says that
he who believes in the Son of God--in God the Saviour--is passed from
death unto life, and shall not come into condemnation. I believe;
yes, I have faith.” Two words were at this time often on his lips--“I
am very happy,” and “I am a great sinner.” They supplied the double
key-note of his inner life. His joy in the forgiving Christ kept pace
with his sorrow for the sins that had grieved him; the one grew and
deepened in the same proportion as the other.

Years afterwards he said to a friend--tracing his conversion, it is
interesting to observe, not merely to his conversations with Madame
de Krudener, but to the whole course of God’s dealings with him from
the time of the burning of Moscow--“Since then I have known God as the
Holy Scriptures have revealed him. Then I learned to understand, and I
understand now, his will and his law; and the resolution to consecrate
to him only, and to his glory, my life and my reign has ripened and
strengthened within me. Since then I have become another man; to
the deliverance of Europe from her ruin I owe my own salvation and
deliverance. It is only since Christianity has become important above
all things else to me, since faith in the Redeemer has been manifested
in me, that his peace--for which I thank God--has entered into my soul.
Ah, but I did not arrive there at once: the path by which I was led
stretched across many a conflict and many a doubt.”

It was no wonder that now he found it less difficult than ever to
pardon his enemies. It seemed to him something which he could not
help doing, because he had been himself forgiven. “Why should I do
otherwise?” he said, when Madame de Krudener expressed her surprise at
some act of forgiveness extraordinary even _for him_; “have I not the
gospel in my heart? I know only _that_; and I think that if any one
were to compel me to go a mile with him, I should willingly go with him
twain.” So glad was his heart in those early days of faith and love.

God had given this man the seventh part of the habitable globe to rule
over. He had given him the splendour of a throne, the wealth of an
imperial treasury, the command of mighty armaments. He had given him
even more--victory over all his foes, success in all his undertakings;
at this time nothing that he sought to accomplish was denied him.
Yet the man’s deep heart was still unsatisfied. “All these things
were too little” for him. One thing he desired of the Lord, that he
sought after--“to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his
temple.” That also God gave him. The brightest glory, the “crowning
mercy” of Alexander’s life, was no earthly triumph, no victory in war
or diplomacy; it was that God answered him in the joy of his heart,
and enabled him to say, with the poorest and humblest of his believing
children, “My Father, my Saviour.” The secret of the Lord was with him,
and He showed him His covenant.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

AFTER WATERLOO.

  “Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
    Save in the cross of Christ, my God;
  All the vain things that charm me most,
    I sacrifice them to his blood.”


“A great battle! Napoleon is annihilated! Wellington and the English
have done it!” Such was the cry with which Tolstoi rushed breathless
into the guard-room where Ivan and others were sitting. The tidings
were not wholly unexpected, and yet they came with startling swiftness
and suddenness. Only a few days before had Napoleon disclosed his
real design, and poured his troops into Belgium. So rapidly had this
movement been effected, that while Wellington was actually engaged in
writing to the Czar to arrange a plan for an offensive campaign, the
French had advanced upon the British and Prussian cantonments, and
the firing had begun. Wellington’s letter was dated the 15th of June,
and by the evening of the 18th--one of the most momentous days in the
world’s history--Napoleon was a ruined and despairing fugitive.

It was only natural if, after the first outburst of exulting joy at the
overthrow of the common enemy, the Russians remembered Moscow and the
glories of the German campaigns, and said sadly each to the other, “Ah,
why were not we there?”

“I do not grudge the English their laurels,” said the captain of
the Chevalier Guard. “They are a gallant race, and have been true
throughout to the cause of Europe and of freedom. But why were not
_we_ at hand, instead of Blucher and those Prussians, to stand by them
breast to breast?”

“We can only say, captain, it was the will of God,” answered Ivan. “He
sent the English and the Prussians to Belgium, and kept us here. He
knows--and all the world knows too--that the Czar was as ready for the
work as Wellington or Blucher, and would have done it quite as well.”

The Czar himself recognized in this event the hand of God, and was
satisfied. He had learned a lesson perhaps more difficult than that
of being ready to do any work required of him--he was “ready _not_
to do.” Without an afterthought of jealousy he saw the work he had
begun completed by another, to whom was given the crowning glory of
dealing the fatal blow to the enemy _he_ had first grappled with and
overthrown. The heart-felt joy with which he gave thanks for the
victory of Waterloo was deepened by the thought that the blood of his
Russians, shed so freely before in the cause of Europe, had now been
mercifully spared.

Three weeks afterwards the allied sovereigns entered Paris once more,
and Louis Dix-huit returned in their wake. A second time had the way to
his capital been made safe for him by his “dear friends the enemies,”
as he sarcastically and ungratefully styled his deliverers.

The Chevalier Guard attended their imperial master, and Ivan had the
intense joy of a reunion with his young bride. His return was far
more speedy than they had either of them dared to hope, and their
hearts were filled with thankfulness. Madame de Salgues had removed
from Versailles into the city, where she had taken a small house in a
fashionable quarter, and Ivan obtained permission to reside with his
friends.

Many things had happened during his absence; he had much to hear as
well as to tell. The “Hundred Days” had left their impress upon all
the household. Madame de Salgues told him she had come to Paris as
much from a determination to defy “General Buonaparte” as from a sense
of the insecurity of a town like Versailles in such troublous times.
Henri, strange to say, had reaped advantage from the general confusion.
When the power of Napoleon was re-established, Madame de Talmont
deplored that the army, as a career for her son, was of course out of
the question; and Henri thought this a favourable moment for broaching
the ideas he had already uttered in confidence to Ivan. They were
received much better than he had ventured to expect; and he was now,
with his mother’s consent, studying under a celebrated architect. “One
must sometimes sacrifice one’s feelings,” she said, “though _never_
one’s principles. And, after all, what to do? The army is no longer a
place for a man of honour; the bar you do not like; and to the Church
there is at least one objection,--I do not wish the noble name of
Talmont to die with you.”

Emile was now a resident under the roof of his grandmother; he had
ceased to wear the uniform of the Ecole Polytechnique. With a few other
students who made their imperialism very obtrusive during the Hundred
Days, he had the honour of sharing in the downfall of his hero by
being expelled at the return of the Bourbons. This ended not only his
military and scientific education, but, at least for the present, his
hopes of obtaining a commission.

A day or two after his arrival, Ivan inquired for M. de Sartines and
his daughter, whom he had not yet seen.

“No doubt they will be here to-morrow,” Madame de Salgues answered.
“They know you are with us. Besides, we are their near neighbours now,
and they seldom leave us three days without a visit.”

“Wish they would leave us three weeks!” said Emile. “That little girl
is a perfect nuisance.”

“My dear boy, how very ungallant you are!” Madame de Salgues observed.
“Still,” she added, “I must own that Mademoiselle Stéphanie is not by
any means improved.”

“Not altogether _her_ fault, poor child!” put in Clémence.

“Oh, _you_ always speak for her, ma cousine, because she is like your
shadow,” said Emile. “Three mornings in the week, at least, Prince
Ivan, she comes here. ‘Papa,’ she says,” and the lad imitated the
little girl’s tones--“‘papa will allow me to go to the Tuileries
gardens, or the Champs Elysées, or the Louvre, if Mademoiselle Clémence
will be so kind as to accompany me.’ She has not even the grace to say,
‘Madame la Princesse.’ But now _you_ have come, we shall have an end of
all that.”

“Then I am to understand,” said Ivan, greatly amused, “that the
deterioration in Mademoiselle Stéphanie’s character is owing to her
intercourse with Clémence?”

“Of course,” returned Emile laughing.

“There are those about her,” said Madame de Talmont more gravely, “who
encourage and applaud her pert speeches; and that, to a child, is
absolute cruelty.”

“Who _did_ encourage them during the Hundred Days, you mean to say,”
Emile resumed. “While the Emperor was in power, you were all of you
glad to hear, even from the lips of a child, whom no one could punish
or seriously blame, the impertinences the grown-up Legitimists were
longing to utter, but dared not.”

“Some of us,” said Madame de Salgues with dignity, “never condescended
to conceal our opinions. You will do me the justice to remember, Emile,
that I gave to every one, as my chief reason for coming into Paris, my
desire to show the usurper I was not afraid of him.”

“As if the Emperor--” Emile began indignantly, but fortunately checked
himself in time, and turned off his annoyance with a laugh. “You
forget, my dear grandmother,” he said, “that there was another reason
yet more potent. The truth is, Prince Ivan, we came into town to avoid
that poor M. de Cranfort. Since the auspicious morning when my cousin
became Madame la Princesse, the unfortunate gentleman has not been
quite in possession of his senses. It is reported that he carries two
loaded pistols about with him, and threatens to shoot first Clémence
and then himself.”

Every one present laughed heartily, assuring Ivan there was not a word
of truth in the story.

“As much, I suppose,” said Ivan in a low voice to Emile, “as in another
story you told me once--about M. de Sartines.”

“I am glad enough now _that_ was false,” Emile answered graciously.
“That child would have been the death of Clémence. I hope M. de
Sartines, if he does marry, will marry a dragon, able to keep her in
order. But really,” he added, “M. de Cranfort is not quite sane. I
have heard him say the most extraordinary things; and, do you know,
he was for some years at Charenton?” After a short pause, he resumed
suddenly--“Prince Ivan, how is the Emperor Alexander?”

“In excellent health,” said Ivan cheerfully.

“I am truly rejoiced to hear it.”

“Very kind of you,” returned Ivan smiling, but with a slight air of
surprise at his emphatic manner.

“Because,” resumed Emile, in a tone of mystery, “as we are all friends
here, I may observe that we have heard rumours--extraordinary rumours.”

“Do you mean about his illness at Vienna? It is true he had a fall from
his horse, and--”

“Oh, _that_ is nothing. That is not what I mean. But the strangest
things are said of him here, and in the best circles too, where you
know he was adored last year. In the Faubourg St. Germain all sorts
of ‘_on dits_’ are rife about him. People say he has become very
singular,--a fanatic, a pietist, and I know not what else; that a
certain crazy old lady--”

“Hush, hush, Emile,” said Madame de Salgues and Madame de Talmont
almost at the same moment. Clémence looked anxiously at Ivan, and Henri
started up indignantly. “I, at least, will not stay to listen to such
folly,” he said.

“A truce, for once, to your championship of the Czar,” said Emile. “I
suppose Prince Ivan may speak now.”

Ivan might have answered angrily, but for certain words which thrilled
through his heart, taking all the bitterness out of Emile’s reckless
taunts: “Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the
treasures of Egypt”--only _he_ said “the treasures of _Russia_,” and
the magnificent crown jewels he had seen in St. Petersburg flashed
before his eyes in a dazzling, bewildering maze of light and colour.
For a moment he did not speak; then he asked, with a gentleness that
surprised every one, “What were you going to say, Emile?”

“Nothing--at least not much,” was the rather apologetic answer.
“Rumour always exaggerates things, and most especially the rumour
of St. Germain. Perhaps it is _not_ true, after all, that Madame de
Krudener makes the Emperor Alexander fast and wear sackcloth; or that
she has persuaded him he is the white angel of peace, and Napoleon
the black demon of war; or that--but, as I say, these may be foolish
stories. Still it seems to be undeniable that the consummate artist,
who last year played the _rôle_ of magnanimous conqueror with such
_éclat_ amongst us, is now assuming, by way of variety, that of
medieval saint. Henri Quatre is masquerading in the guise of St. Louis.
Seriously,--what has come over him, Prince Pojarsky? Is his mind really
affected, or is it all some deep-laid political scheme?”

“Certainly, Emile, I am amazed at your audacity,” Madame de Salgues
interposed again. “Prince Ivan has the patience of a saint.”

“From _your_ lips, madame,” said Ivan bowing, “I accept the name as a
compliment; though others, it seems, use it for a reproach.--Emile, I
am not careful to answer you in this matter. You have but to watch the
course of events, and you will see that there is not a man in Europe of
sounder understanding than my Czar. Of what he has already accomplished
I need not remind you; and I had rather not, considering _whom_ he has
overcome. If his religious principles expose him to reproach, it is
only ‘the reproach of the foolish.’ They are not new to him, though of
late they have deepened and strengthened. All those stories you allude
to about his intercourse with Madame de Krudener are fabrications. The
grain of truth they contain is the fact that God has been pleased to
send him a message by the lips of a woman;--and why should he not?”

To this there was no answer, and the little party broke up. But Ivan
drew Emile aside. “I want a word with you,” he said. “Do you know in
what temper the minds of men are now?”

“Do you mean the minds of Royalists?” asked Emile bitterly. “That I do.
I believe that if they had the power they would put every Imperialist
of us all to the sword; or if not, it would only be to reserve us for
the dungeon and the scaffold. The Bourbons gnash their teeth upon us.
The Duchess of Angoulême says openly, ‘Mercy cannot be distinguished
from weakness.’”

“Ah, my friend, can you wonder? When that stern, sorrow-stricken woman
had a girl’s tender heart, it was turned to stone by the cruel murder
of both her parents and of her young innocent brother. But others who
have not the same wrongs to avenge are quite as eager for vengeance.”

“They are a bad set, those Bourbons,” said Emile.

“Certainly _I_ shall not plead for them. They have not used us or our
Emperor well. But consider that in the eyes of a German every Frenchman
is as odious as a Buonapartist can be in those of a Royalist. The
Prussians talk openly of dismembering France; and, Emile, who is to
hinder them? Not Louis--he is powerless; not Austria--she will share
the spoils; not England--she is just, and even generous, but do you
expect her to go to war single-handed in the cause of her enemies?”

“_One_ man would have hindered them,” said Emile--“he who is a captive
now. France will soon wish the Emperor back again.”

“I respect your faith in your hero, though I do not share it. But, my
dear Emile, you cannot deny that, however it has come to pass, the most
stupendous genius of modern times has proved, practically, the most
stupendous failure.”

“Is success always the test of greatness?”

“By no means. But Napoleon has always acted as though it were; has
aimed at it, lived for it, sacrificed everything to it, and finally
lost it. As he has now left--been forced to leave--his country to the
deadly enemies his ambition has raised up against her, what will the
end be, Emile?”

“Who can tell? As for me, I feel ready to hang myself.”

“Pray for the life and health of my Czar. You will see him stand
between the avengers and their prey; between prostrate France and
victorious Germany; and even, so far as becomes a foreigner, between
prostrate Imperialists and victorious Royalists.”

“That it should come to this! That France--our proud, glorious
France--should have to thank a Czar of Russia!”

“Where is the shame of thanking him, if God has given him the power to
befriend her?”

“_God?_” Emile repeated scornfully. “That’s your way of talking, you
Russians. Don’t you see now that it ends in folly and fanaticism?”

Ivan laid his hand on the shoulder of Emile. “My dear boy,” he said,
“do you know why I am talking with you thus? Not to make you believe
in my Czar. _His_ glory is in good keeping; and if you prefer Napoleon
for a hero, I have no more to say. The cause I want to plead with you
is not his, but your own. You call him fanatic and dreamer because of
his faith in God and in Christ. I want to show you that it is this very
faith which makes him generous, merciful, just.”

“I do not see the good of faith,” Emile broke in passionately. “I don’t
mean _religious_ faith, but faith of any kind. We had faith--oh, such
intense, glorious, undoubting faith--in the Emperor and in his star.
And we loved him so! You cannot understand it, Prince Ivan, but it is
true. Do you remember Henri’s friend, the Old ‘Garde’ Rougeard, who
came to tell me of the Emperor’s return? He fell at Waterloo; a comrade
of his, who crept back wounded to die amongst his children, told me
about it. When all was lost, the remnant of the Old Guard was called
upon to surrender. ‘La Garde meurt, mais ne se rend pas,’ was the proud
reply; and those brave men died where they stood.[63] Poor Rougeard
took the colours from the falling ensign, and with his dying hand
wrapped them round his breast. ‘Vive l’Empereur!’ was his last word.”

“And the Emperor lived, _after_ such followers as these,” said Ivan
with tears in his eyes. Emile saw the tears, and they did him more good
than a hundred admonitions. Ivan presently resumed: “Suppose, Emile,
that when your Emperor dies some one were to try to persuade the world
that he had never existed,--that his whole personality, life, and
career was a fiction from first to last?”

“Any one who tried it would be laughed at for his pains.”

“Of course. Every effect must have a cause. Men do not love, trust in,
die for that which is not, and never has been.”

“What are you trying to say?” asked Emile, a little surprised.

“That the existence of Christ is as certain as that of Napoleon.”

“Was. There was once such a Person, I am sure.”

“_He is._ In the year three thousand six hundred--if the world last so
long--who do you think will die for the name of Napoleon Buonaparte?
Who will love him, obey him, follow him as my Czar on his throne to-day
is not ashamed to confess that he loves and follows _his King_? Nay,
even the glory of my Czar will pass away, the jewels that sparkle in
his crown of fame will pale and wane (_that_ will not matter, for he
will have cast it long ere then at his Redeemer’s feet); but the glory
of Christ will last for ever and ever.”

“I know you really believe in the Christian religion. I cannot, but I
respect those who can.”

“I believe in _Christ_, Emile; and I want you to believe in him too. I
want you to search and look, and never rest until you find out--first
that he is, then that he is worthy of all your faith and love.”

“Where do you want me to look?”

“If you will, at the lives of those who profess this faith. See if it
does not produce better and nobler results than any other principle
of action. But I had far rather you looked at the picture of Christ
himself as you will find it in the holy Scriptures.”

“Well, I will try,” said Emile, evidently touched. “At least I can
read. I have more than time enough for reading now. I study mathematics
with Henri; but he is _so_ tiresome that every lesson ends in a
quarrel.--Last term I had the second prize at the Polytechnic, and now
I expected the first. Was it not hard to be turned out?”

“Very; but you have the consolation of suffering in the cause of your
Emperor. If I were you, Emile, I would study hard enough to show the
world I was no loser. And, one word more; I would keep away from
political meetings, _secret_ meetings especially, and eschew plots and
intrigues. They are only snares and pitfalls dug for the feet of those
who cling to a lost cause.”

“Lost!--Oh, Prince Ivan!”

“My friend, Napoleon has played his game and lost his stake. That is
plain to every one. But _you_ have the cards still in your hand. Do not
spoil your chance.”

“Do you mean my chance of success? I thought you despised success.”

“I mean your chance of a noble life. But I ought not to have said
‘chance.’ There is none.”

“There is destiny.”

“There is _will_. Your will, and God’s will, which means only good to
you, if you will accept it.”

“There is something in what you say,--especially about secret
meetings,” he added in a lower tone. “But it is late; I must go to
those mathematics. Good night.” He turned away, softly whistling
the air of a song very popular with the Imperialists, “Veillons au
salut de l’Empire.” “_I_ shall watch henceforward over the safety of
something else, very dear to Prince Pojarsky,” thought the conceited
but generous boy. “How little he guesses what plans we have talked
of--we Buonapartists--at those secret meetings he denounces! Such,
for instance, as the assassination of a certain great personage, in
_his_ innocent eyes the greatest in the world! But if ever again, in
my presence, any one dares to drop a hint on that subject, I swear the
words shall be his last!”



CHAPTER XXXV.

“THE GRAY SISTER OF HEARTS.”

  “Why should we dream youth’s draught of joy,
    If pure, would sparkle less;
  Or that the cup would sooner cloy
    The Saviour deigned to bless?”


Ivan could afford just now to be very generous and very patient,
because he was very happy. There was sunshine not only on his path
but in his heart. Almost at the same time that the best of earthly
blessings had been given him, he was given also the conscious
possession of the love divine; and he received it in thankful, trustful
joy. Christ had come to him, not in sorrow, as he comes to many, but
making the brightest hours of life infinitely brighter by his presence.

He thought he had nothing to do but to tell Clémence the new happiness
he had found, and that she would immediately understand and share
it; that she would no longer be content to wait for acceptance with
God until some future day, but would henceforth enjoy the glad
consciousness of being already accepted in the Beloved. But to her
tender conscience and thoughtful mind difficulties presented themselves
which had never troubled the eager, impulsive Ivan. Her fears of
self-deception, of presumption, of spiritual pride, raised up a host
of shadowy disturbers of the peace within, which Ivan had not skill
enough to combat. He urged her therefore to come with him and hear the
teachers from whom he had learned so much.

Madame de Krudener had come to Paris, and established herself in a
house adjoining the Elysée Bourbon, where she held what would now be
called “drawing-room meetings,” to which all the rank and fashion of
Paris were flocking. It was strange that for once religious meetings
became the rage in the very stronghold of ungodliness, vice, and
frivolity. Many of the visitors had their curiosity piqued by the
extraordinary reports that reached them, and wished to ascertain
the truth for themselves; many more “went to scoff,” and of these a
goodly number “remained to pray.”[64] But the greatest attraction to
these _soirées_ was the hope of seeing the Emperor of Russia--a hope,
however, not often gratified. Far from parading his religion, Alexander
was strongly tempted to conceal it. His sensitive nature dreaded
ridicule; and he was well aware that a profession of personal religion
would expose him to the most polished shafts of that exquisite Parisian
wit, which, keen as the scimitar of Saladin, could divide asunder, with
fine, unerring touch, the most delicate fibres of thought and feeling.
Even in Protestant London--which he always placed in honourable
contrast to Paris for seriousness and morality--he had observed
that religious laymen were looked upon almost with contempt. It was
therefore not without much prayer and conflict that he took his stand
on the side of God in the face of all the world.

He did not often mingle with the throng that filled the drawing-rooms
of Madame de Krudener to overflowing on three or four evenings of every
week; but he frequently came later, when his day’s work was over, for
prayer and quiet study of the Scriptures. These hours of communion
were prolonged until far into the night; yet he always rose at five in
the morning, so that no man was able to reproach him with any lack of
diligence in business, nor was any part of the heavy burden of care
and responsibility that fell to his lot neglected or avoided.

Clémence would gladly have accompanied Ivan to some of Madame de
Krudener’s meetings; and Madame de Talmont, though she had her
objections, might have gone also, but for the determined opposition
of Madame de Salgues. “In my time,” said the lady of the old régime,
“women did not preach; and certainly, if they had done so, ‘gens comme
il faut’ would not have gone to hear them. Why should you need Madame
de Krudener to tell you to repent and believe? I suppose you hear those
Christian duties inculcated every Sunday and holiday when you go to
church.”

“Many people go to hear Madame de Krudener who never enter a church,”
Clémence observed.

“That is possible,” returned Madame de Salgues. “Sick people, who
will not eat wholesome food, sometimes take a fancy for extraordinary
messes, and a wise doctor gives them their way. But you, my dear niece,
are certainly not in that position.”

“Madame de Krudener does not always speak; sometimes it is M. Empaytaz,
a Swiss pastor, who gives the address,” Clémence ventured again.

“Worse and worse, my dear! A _Protestant_!” cried Madame de Salgues in
a tone of horror. “I sometimes wonder what the world is coming to. All
barriers, all distinctions seem to be swept away in these revolutionary
days.”

Henri was sitting in another part of the room, occupied with a book;
and none, save Clémence, noticed the flush of pain that overspread his
face at these words.

Ivan and Clémence agreed that it would not be right for the latter to
set aside the expressed wish of a relative to whom she owed so much.
Therefore, instead of listening to Madame de Krudener or Empaytaz,
she studied the Bible diligently, both alone and with Ivan, and lost
nothing by going to the fountainhead, instead of to streams, not always
of undeniable purity.

Yet her desire to see and hear the remarkable woman whose words were
making so great an impression was very natural, and was destined at
length to be gratified. One morning, while the family were seated at
their eleven o’clock _déjeûner_, they were honoured by a visit from
Stéphanie de Sartines. The little girl was intensely conscious of a new
silk dress--green shot with pink, which shone and glistened with each
of her quick, restless movements--and of a large Tuscan hat adorned
with a wreath of blush roses. She exchanged greetings, in a highly
satisfied tone, with every one in the room, and then, coming to the
side of Clémence, began as usual, “Papa says he will allow me--”

The smile that passed round the group was not unnoticed by the
observant Stéphanie. She looked up quickly, but resumed her little
speech after a moment’s hesitation. “Papa says he will allow me to go
and hear Madame de Krudener preaching to the children, if you will be
kind enough to accompany me, mademoiselle,--I mean Madame la Princesse;
and if M. le Prince will permit you,” she continued, bowing towards
Ivan with the air of a little queen.

“If no one objects more than I do, Madame la Princesse is quite at
your service, mademoiselle,” answered Ivan, with a smile and a bow
as ceremonious as her own.--“I am on duty to-day, as you are aware,
m’amie,” he added in a lower voice to Clémence.

“I thought the old lady kept her ghostly admonitions for those who
needed them--hardened transgressors like M. de Talleyrand, for
example,” said Emile. “Does she lecture children too, for variety?”

“It appears she does. _You_ ought to go and hear her, M. Emile,”
returned Stéphanie gravely. “It would do you good.--But really,
madame,” she added, addressing Clémence again, “you _must_ come. It
will be so--so delightful, so exciting, so _amusing_.”

“My dear child, one does not go to a religious service to be amused,”
observed Madame de Talmont.

“Ah, madame, you cannot imagine how delicious it is! My cousin Coralie
has told me all about it. Madame de Krudener visited Coralie’s pension
and preached to the young ladies, and you never saw anything like it!
They were all moved--they shed torrents of tears--it must have been
grand, beautiful; a great deal better than going to the theatre--even
when Talma is acting, as papa would say. I would give the whole world
to see it for myself, and to know what it is all about. Come--_do
come_, mademoiselle--madame, I mean.--Prince Ivan, I beg of you to send
her with me.”

“You are most welcome to her escort as far as I am concerned,” Ivan
answered. “But, mademoiselle, if you or I were going to meet even
an earthly monarch, I think we should do so with a little more
seriousness.”

“Ah, that reminds me--that is the best thing of all. Coralie says that
the Czar is coming to the meeting to see the children.--What do you
think of _that_, M. Emile?”

“I think he may go wherever he pleases; he is sure to be welcome,”
returned Emile with unusual graciousness.

Ivan gave him a quick glance of surprise and pleasure, then said,
turning to Stéphanie, “May I ask where you heard that, mademoiselle?
For it does not look very probable.”

“Oh, M. de Berckheim told Coralie’s father; for he is a great friend
of his. This is not a little meeting in a school-room, Prince Ivan;
it will be quite a grand affair. Any children who like may come, and
grown-up people too. There will be crowds, no doubt. I daresay we shall
find it hard to get seats. It will be altogether delightful. Besides, I
am longing to see the Czar.”

A few questions about time and place were asked, and the answers showed
that Stéphanie had carefully considered every detail of her plan. “We
can get a fiacre,” she said, “and be there in three-quarters of an
hour.”

Madame de Salgues, who had been silent hitherto, now spoke in a
gracious tone. “If you are to hear this woman at all, Clémence, it
appears to me that you could not do so in a manner less open to
objection. Go, my dear niece, if you wish it.”

“I am at your service, Stéphanie,” Clémence said smiling; and she rose
to leave the room. As she passed the chair of her aunt she kissed her
hand with a grateful look; and the old lady responded kindly, “I hope
you will enjoy yourself, my dear.” She had been greatly touched, though
she had said nothing, by the quietness with which Clémence had given up
what was evidently her own and her husband’s wish, in deference to her
feelings.

“I must own, mon ami,” Clémence said to Ivan, who joined her while she
was making her simple toilet, “I think it is a pity the Czar should go
to a meeting such as Stéphanie expects this to be.”

“Why so, if it please you, my princess?” asked Ivan, rather surprised.

“Because,” she answered, “the children will all be gazing at the great
people instead of listening to what Madame de Krudener is saying to
them. Besides, it is bad for them--is it not?--to think themselves
objects of attention. The less the religion of children is noticed and
talked about the better.”

“Oh, you need not fear. The presence of half-a-dozen gentlemen, in
a large public room, will be scarcely observed by the children; and
who is to tell them that one of them is the Czar? You don’t know,
Clémence,” he added with a change of tone, “how his heart yearns over
the little ones. In England, no sight pleased him so well as the
annual gathering of the charity children under the dome of St. Paul’s
Cathedral. And I have seen him myself in Dresden, when he lodged in the
Bruhl Palace, come out in the evening to watch the children playing in
the gardens, which he would not allow to be closed against them. Three
little princesses--‘daughters of Russia’--are sleeping in the Church
of St. Alexander Nevsky at St. Petersburg, and God never gave him a
son.”

But Stéphanie’s impatient voice was heard in the passage, so, after
a tender little farewell to Clémence, Ivan escorted the ladies to a
fiacre, and saw them depart.

The room where the meeting was held was crowded when they arrived.
However, Coralie saw her cousin and Clémence seeking a place, and
persuaded the governess who had charge of her party to make room for
them. Clémence at first regretted this, for the girls began to chatter
amongst themselves about their dress and other trifles in a way well
calculated to put to flight all serious impressions.

Meanwhile she looked with much interest on the face and figure of the
person about whom Ivan had told her so much. Perhaps on the whole she
was disappointed: the worn and haggard features had in her eyes no
charm save one, the charm of intense earnestness and utter sincerity.
The thought passed through her mind, “That is a woman from whom I might
learn much as a teacher, but I could never trust her as a guide.”
One thing, however, she learned that day--that the Pietists neither
thought lightly of sin themselves, nor induced others to think lightly
of it. The “Gray Sister of Hearts” (so Clémence remembered Ivan’s
calling Madame de Krudener) denounced in scathing accents just those
sins of which the world thinks least--the sins of childhood. Conceit,
selfishness, disobedience, forgetfulness of God, were exposed in terms
that Clémence might have thought exaggerated, had she not remembered
that the poison-seed is the poison-plant in embryo. Never before had
she felt so thoroughly--

  “That the most childish sin a child can do
  Is yet a sin which Jesus never did
  When Jesus was a child, and yet a sin
  For which he came in lowly pain to die.”

By-and-by the speaker’s tone changed, and with a tenderness of look
and manner of which Clémence felt all the charm, she spoke of “the
child-loved Lover of children,” of the Shepherd who gathers the lambs
in his arms and carries them in his bosom, who gave his life for the
sheep and the lambs so willingly, so patiently, so lovingly. “My little
child,” she seemed to say to every one present, “he died for _thee_, he
loves _thee_, he speaks to _thee_ and says, ‘My son, or my daughter,
give me thine heart, and give it to-day.’”

While she listened, the head of Stéphanie had sunk very low, her face
was quite shaded by the broad leaf of her hat, and Clémence saw with
wonder that tears were falling quick and fast upon the cherished silk,
utterly unheeded by its owner. She tried gently to take her hand; but
Stéphanie, with a quick, impetuous movement, drew it away.

When the meeting was at an end, any who wished for private conversation
were invited to remain.

“Shall we go home, dear?” Clémence whispered. Stéphanie shook her
head with a vehement negative. Her slight frame was quivering with
convulsive sobs. After an interval Clémence asked gently, “Why are you
weeping so bitterly? Tell me, dear. Is it for your sin?”

The child looked up quickly. “Not all--not _most_--for that. Most
because I have grieved Him, and He is so good.”

Clémence said no more; she prayed in silence for her little friend. Her
own deep inward life had taught her great reverence for the soul of
another. Even in that of a child there might be mysteries with which no
hand but God’s could deal aright. Stéphanie prayed too, for the first
time in her life.

Meanwhile the “Gray Sister of Hearts” was going quietly amongst the
children who, like Stéphanie, had remained, advising, comforting, and
instructing them, according to the power God had given her. At last
she came to Stéphanie. “My little girl, why do you weep?” she asked,
with that peculiar tenderness which in great measure accounted for the
spiritual magnetism she exercised.

“I am holding out my hand to the Lord Jesus, and he will not take it,”
was the answer.[65]

“That is only because his arms are around you already, dear little
one,” she said. She added many loving words, to which Clémence as
well as Stéphanie listened with deep interest. At length she kissed a
farewell to her little pupil, in whose eyes a happy light had begun to
shine. “I am ready to go now,” said Stéphanie, putting her hand in that
of Clémence.

It was late when they reached home. Madame de Salgues and Madame de
Talmont were beginning to grow uneasy, and Henri had just volunteered
to go in search of the wanderers. They were warmly welcomed; and, as
had been already arranged, Stéphanie remained to spend the rest of the
day with her friends.

While Madame de Talmont asked Clémence many questions about the
meeting, Emile opened a fire of banter upon Stéphanie, about the effect
her dress and appearance had produced upon the assembly, and especially
upon the Czar, “The very least I expected of his Imperial Majesty,”
he said, “was to send an aide-de-camp to inquire who was the charming
young lady in pink and green silk.”

But Stéphanie did not reply with her usual saucy readiness; and Henri,
noticing her agitation, quickly came to her relief, making some
commonplace inquiry about the numbers who were present.

“Ah, I see what is the matter,” said Emile: “the Czar was not there
after all. Very unlike him, to disappoint so many young ladies.”

Stéphanie gave the surprising answer, “I do not know if he was there. I
never thought of him at all.”

Then Clémence drew her gently away to her own room, leaving her there
in quiet until supper was ready. As she went out Madame de Salgues
observed, “I really think that child is improving--at least in
appearance. This evening she looks almost pretty.”

“I have always said that Mademoiselle Stéphanie de Sartines will one
day be a beautiful woman,” Henri answered in a tone of decision.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

TWO HAPPY DAYS.

  “The shadow had passed from his heart and brow,
    And a deep calm filled his breast;
  For the peace of God was his portion now,
    And his weary soul found rest.”


“You must all come, my friends,” said Ivan. “I have set my heart upon
it.” He had been describing the preparations for the grand review
of the Russian army which was to take place a few days later in the
“Plaine des Vertus.”

“Ah, yes; you must all go, certainly,” remarked Madame de Salgues.

“Unless Madame de Salgues is obliging enough to be of the party, no one
will go,” said Ivan. “I know that at least I can speak for Clémence.”

“But what to do, my friend? It will take three days at the very
least--one to go, one to stay, and one to return. And then, think of
the crowds! Who knows even whether we shall find room in any of the
hotels?”

“You need have no anxiety about that, madame. The Emperor has engaged
all the hotels and posting establishments of the district. I have only
to obtain his order, through his secretary, for everything you require,
and I know that I can do so. You must stay for the religious service on
the day following the review; it will be the Emperor’s name-day.”

“I should certainly like to witness _that_,” said Madame de Talmont.

“I am sorry that my duties must deprive me of the pleasure of being
your attendant cavalier,” pursued Ivan. “But Henri and Emile will more
than supply my place; and you may perhaps wish to invite a friend to
join your party.”

“If we engage a carriage,” said Madame de Talmont, “we can accommodate
another lady. Who shall it be, ma tante?”

“It is for Prince Ivan to express his wishes on that point.”

Ivan gracefully referred the choice to the ladies, and Clémence pleaded
for Stéphanie. “She has been so good lately, poor child,” she said.
“And this will be a pleasure she will remember all her life.”

“By all means. Let us have her father too,” suggested Emile. “For I
hear that this wonderful Madame de Krudener is to be there; and as
she is the only person who has ever succeeded in taming mademoiselle,
perhaps a little arrangement with M. de Sartines--”

“Hold thy peace, Emile,” said Madame de Salgues. “I will have no jests
levelled in my presence at religious persons, be they whom they may;
and I suppose this enigmatical old lady is some kind of irregular nun,
or at least a Carmelite. I cannot pretend to say what she is:--but, my
dear grandson, you must permit me to observe that your tone of late
has been very offensive to me. It is entirely that of the Empire, not
that in which you have been educated. Your manners, too, have quite
deteriorated. They are becoming absolutely bourgeoise.”

“Pardon, madame,” returned Emile with a bow. “I am sorry they do not
please you. But you must acknowledge they are not likely to be mended
by the life I am leading,” he added a little bitterly. “Idleness is the
mother of mischief.”

Madame de Salgues relinquished the useless altercation with a sigh;
and Ivan for the second time sought a private interview with Emile,
following him into the little room where he was wont to indulge his
habit of smoking at a safe distance from his grandmother.

Ivan showed him a piece of paper. “I shall not insult you by asking
whether you know anything about this,” he said.

It was the copy of a letter addressed to the Czar by a person who
signed himself “Captain of Regicides,” threatening him with instant
death if he would not immediately proclaim Napoleon II.

“I should like to hear you do it!” cried Emile indignantly, as he
flung the paper on the ground, and set his heel upon it. “I should
like better still to find out the author of that precious document,
and to treat him _so_,” he added, grinding it beneath his foot. “Such
scoundrels bring the good cause into disrepute. But the Emperor
Alexander has too much courage and good sense to regard them.”

“True; yet others may be forced to regard them for him. The threat has
not been an empty one, Emile. They have tried to poison him.”

“_Never!_” cried Emile, starting and changing colour.

“And nearly succeeded,” Ivan continued sadly. “All our joy in the
present, all our happy plans for the future, might to-day have been
turned into mourning. And not ours only--”

“But how was it?” Emile interrupted.

“It occurred to his cook, contrary to his usual practice, to taste the
wine laid ready for his master’s use at dinner. The poor fellow’s life
has been saved with the utmost difficulty.”

“That is abominable!” cried Emile. “If I but knew the miscreant who did
it, I would spare the executioner a bad business. Peste! if we want a
victim, we Imperialists--and perhaps it is not unnatural we should--we
ought to take Gneisenau who proposed a scaffold for the Emperor,
Talleyrand who deceived and betrayed everybody impartially all round,
or old Louis himself who ran away from his throne without striking a
blow. We might spare at least the one chivalrous enemy who always
spared us.”

“It would be better for yourselves,” said Ivan. “And for others too.
Baron Muffling[66] says he is longing to get the Czar out of Paris, as,
if he is assassinated, or even insulted, no power on earth would be
able to avert a general massacre of the inhabitants by the Allies.”

“Which _you_ would take part in, Prince Ivan.”

Ivan was silent for a moment, then he said in a tone of deep feeling,
“Do not ask me. I am a Christian, I hope, but I am a _man_ also. I know
not what I would do. God grant I may not be put to the test.”

There was a pause, then Emile asked, “What does _he_ say?”

“If I tell you, will you scoff?”

“At him? No; that I can promise you.”

“Well, then, he has asked his friends to pray for him.”

“Useless, but harmless,” said Emile with an air of generous toleration.
“Very clever persons have worn amulets; and even the great Napoleon was
not free from a superstition or two.”

“Not as an amulet against steel or poison does my Czar think of prayer.
‘Do not pray,’ he says, ‘that I may be guarded from the evil that man
can do to me; I have no fears on these grounds. I know that I am in the
hands of God.’”

“That is like Napoleon’s confidence in his star,” thought Emile. He had
almost uttered his thought aloud, but he checked himself in time. For
he reflected that this was not blind confidence in a thing, in some
unknown power--chance, fate, or destiny--but rather, what Ivan had
spoken of to him before, trust in a _Person_.

Ivan resumed presently, “What he desires his friends to ask for him is
protection from the evil influences of the world, and specially _from
those of this city_. Emile, you understand something of his meaning,
and of mine?”

Emile turned aside to avoid meeting the eyes of Ivan, for his words had
touched a chord within. Thrown in idleness upon the great, unquiet,
corrupt world of Paris, the position of the youth was truly perilous.
Secret political intrigue was wooing him upon the one hand, while
vice was spreading its snares to allure him upon the other. Ivan had
succeeded in conveying an emphatic warning at the same time against
both.

“I wish I were more like Henri,” Emile said at last. “He is sometimes
tiresome--a little, but he is as steady as a rock, a perfect gentleman,
and a stainless man of honour.”

“God will help you, Emile; then all will be well,” said Ivan as he left
the room.

The manifold excitements of the next few days put aside for the time
all graver thoughts. The unpretending carriage of the De Talmonts
mingled with a continuous stream of other vehicles on their way to
the Plaine des Vertus, and the striking and amusing sights afforded
by the journey were almost sufficient to turn the brain, of Stéphanie
at least. But the grand review itself confused and bewildered the
imaginations of far more experienced spectators. “Do not ask me what
I think of it,” said Madame de Salgues in the evening, when at last a
happy, weary, excited party sat down to rest in their hotel. “I feel
as if for a whole year at least I had not been myself, but some one
else, and had been living amidst glare and glitter, bright colours and
splendid uniforms. Such masses of men moving as one--such glorious
martial music!--such deafening thunder of artillery!--I could not have
dreamed of anything like it.”

Emile whistled softly to himself. “It has made my grandmother quite
poetical,” he said.

“That is not wonderful,” remarked Madame de Talmont. “It was indeed the
poetry of war.”

“Yes,” said Henri thoughtfully; “and if _I_ had not been forced to
read the stern and rugged prose, I should have looked at it with other
eyes. But all the time I could not help thinking how many gallant men
like those I had seen die in misery.”

“But did you know what they were doing at the end?” asked Emile. “That
last tremendous charge, that made all the ladies start and change
colour, was what is called a charge in line. It was right well done
too, though it has long been thought no one could manage it except the
English. With such material, and under such leadership, nothing is
impossible. With an army like that,” he added a little sadly, “Napoleon
would conquer the world.”

Just then Ivan came in to pay his friends a short visit, and to see
that they were comfortably accommodated. Many were the compliments
addressed to him and the questions asked of him, especially by Emile.
“The discipline of your army seems admirable,” said he. “I should like
to know how it is managed.”

“Like all other discipline worth the name,” Ivan answered; “by justice
and mercy. The Czar knows how to punish, though he loves to pardon.”

“Of course he must punish sometimes; but one does not hear of it.”

“He knows how to punish in ways you could not hear of. A word, a look,
silence even, he can make a terrible punishment. But this power he
rarely uses. I have heard it said that he ‘can annihilate a man without
touching him;’ but I have never seen him do it, and I hope I never
shall.”

“Nor I either,” said Emile.

“I know of _one_ reproof he administered. One of our colonels failed
to have his regiment ready at the time appointed for reviewing it.
He received a severe reprimand, and was broken-hearted. The Czar saw
it, sought him out afterwards, and comforted him, telling him that
‘it was not for one mistake the faithful services of years could be
forgotten.’”

“If,” said Madame de Talmont, “there was any drawback to our enjoyment
to-day, it was the difficulty we found in recognizing the great
personages we wished to see amidst all the brilliant confusion. We
needed our Chevalier of Malta by our side to point them out to us.”

“He would willingly have been there, madame,” said Ivan bowing.
“But to-morrow you will find it easier to distinguish them. At the
grand religious ceremony all will be present. You will see the royal
personages assembled in the tent where they are to hear the service.”

“Ah,” said Stéphanie, “that will be delightful! I am longing to see the
great English Duke Vellington, who conquered General Buonaparte,--or
the ex-Emperor, as one may say,” she added considerately, with a sly
glance at Emile.

Their expectations were not disappointed. The solemn pageant of the
following day was graced by a glittering galaxy of royal stars, upon
which no eye could rest without emotion. Beside Alexander stood the
wayward, ungainly Constantine, unlike him in all but brotherly love;
and next to him, the young Grand Dukes, Nicholas and Michael. The King
of Prussia was there, with his two sons,--one of them destined to wear
hereafter an imperial diadem; the Emperor of Austria, with some members
of his family; and, most admired of all perhaps, little Stéphanie’s
hero, the Iron Duke.

But the sense of these great earthly presences passed away and was
forgotten in the solemn awe of the scene that followed. “An immense
army of conquerors” all at the same instant fell on their knees in
prayer and thanksgiving. Each regiment, led by its own chaplain, moved
in harmony with the rest. Magnificent vestments, fragrant incense, and
the most exquisite vocal music contributed their charms; until, to
those who witnessed it, it seemed as if this worship scarcely belonged
to earth. After the breathless, spell-bound silence that followed the
last chanted psalm of praise, Clémence faltered tearfully, “I think
it is like that perfect worship in the courts above, where the great
multitude, whom no man can number, fall on their faces before the
Throne.”

“Ah, sister mine!” said Henri with a sigh, “there is no perfect worship
here. And this,--beautiful as it is, is far indeed from perfect. I
doubt even whether it is quite in accordance with what we know of the
will of God. But,” he added softly, “‘the good Lord pardon every one
that prepareth his heart to seek the Lord God of his fathers, though he
be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary.’”

The religious service over, the guests strolled through the camp,
enjoying the sweet summer weather, and the curious and interesting
sights that met their view on every side. Amongst the crowd of visitors
there was no happier party than that of Madame de Talmont. Joy had
ripened the quiet grace of Clémence into a sweet and rare loveliness;
there was a soft and steady light in her dark eyes, and the glow of
perfect health upon her cheek. She was dressed that day with unusual
care; Ivan himself had superintended her toilet for the expedition,
and had chosen the simple exquisitely-fitting robe of silver gray silk
which she wore. And that morning, before the service, he brought her
the loveliest of roses, crimson and cream colour, and fastened them in
her belt, “for the Emperor’s fête,” he said.

In the course of the afternoon his friends met him; he was walking with
a group of officers of distinguished appearance. Coming to the side of
Clémence, he took her hand and led her gently forward. “His Imperial
Majesty wishes to be presented to you,” he said quietly.

If Clémence felt a momentary embarrassment, it was quickly dispelled;
for a very courteous gentleman was bowing over her hand, and a kind
voice was saying pleasant things of “my friend Prince Pojarsky,” and
of the welcome which awaited Madame la Princesse for his sake in St.
Petersburg. What she answered, or what other introductions followed
she scarcely knew, for all that passed seemed like a dream, only far
more easy and natural. “_That_ the Emperor!” said Stéphanie afterwards.
“I should not have been at all afraid to talk to him myself. He was
only a gentleman.”[67]

“_Only_ a gentleman?” Madame de Talmont repeated. “Such gentlemen are
not so plentiful, my little Stéphanie.”

“But that Prince Ivan is doubtless well acquainted with the etiquette
of his own court, I should say he made a blunder,” observed Madame de
Salgues. “A lady, were she the highest of the land, would be presented
to the King of France, not the King to the lady.”

“Yes; and the King would go in to dinner before his guest, were that
guest an Emperor,” said Emile. “Certainly no one can call Louis
Dix-huit ‘only a gentleman.’”

“Prince Ivan may be trusted in matters of etiquette,” said Henri. He
added apart to Clémence, “Do you remember, sister mine, the good things
we two agreed to ask for the man who saved my life?”

“Love, joy, peace, God’s best gifts. And there is that in his face
to-day, Henri, which makes me think God has heard and answered our
prayer.”

They were not mistaken. A few words, spoken that evening to intimate
friends, show how truly Alexander dwelt then in the secret place of the
Most High. “This day has been the most glorious of my life, I shall
never forget it,” he said; but never surely did king or conqueror give
so unique a reason for his joy and triumph: “My heart has been filled
with love for my enemies. I have been able to pray fervently for them
all; and it is with tears and at the foot of the cross that I have
prayed for the welfare of France.”

Such joy as this is like the name in the white stone, “which no man
knoweth save he that receiveth it.” It would lose its beauty and its
reality if passed from lip to lip as a common thing. Nor was it. It was
told at the time in confidence to those who should have held it as a
sacred trust; and the confidence was not violated until, for Alexander,
all earthly joys and sorrows were no more. His _joy_ was his own; but
his _faith_ was a thing to be confessed before all the world. And such
a confession was the real meaning and purport of the celebrated Holy
Alliance,--so greatly discussed, ridiculed, wondered over, blamed.

To Alexander, and to Alexander alone, belongs unquestionably the
responsibility of this act, in which, not without much difficulty, he
obtained the concurrence of his brother sovereigns. There is no doubt
that it was his hand which penned the remarkable document itself, as
well as the private letter which accompanied it when sent for signature
to the English Prince Regent. A few words from this letter may explain
his intention. “The events,” says Alexander, “which have afflicted
the world for more than twenty years have convinced us that the only
means of putting an end to them is to be found in the closest union
between the sovereigns whom Divine Providence has placed at the head
of the nations of Europe. The history of the three last memorable
years is a proof of the happy effect this union has produced for the
safety of mankind. But to assure to this bond the solidity required
by the greatness and purity of the end to which it tends, it ought to
be founded on the sacred principles of the Christian religion. Deeply
penetrated by this important truth, we have signed the act we submit
to-day to the meditation of your Royal Highness. You will see its
object is to strengthen the ties uniting us, in forming the people
of Christendom into one family, and in assuring to them, under the
protection of the All-Powerful, the happiness and safety of peace in
the ties of an indissoluble fraternity.”

The purpose of the Holy Alliance was threefold. It was firstly, as
has been intimated, a solemn confession of faith in Christ, which
Alexander, both as man and as sovereign, made for himself, and desired
his brother sovereigns to make also. It was, moreover, a solemn
declaration of the brotherhood and unity of all Christian nations.
And, lastly and chiefly, it was a bond and pledge of peace. A stable,
enduring, universal peace had been the dream of Alexander from the
days of his youth. He had seen much of the miseries of war; and to
his noble, sensitive, romantic spirit, ever full of longings for the
happiness of humanity, the vision of terminating all these miseries,
and ushering in a glad new period of joy, security, and prosperity,
robed itself in the fairest colours. Once and again did he say, at
different epochs, that he would willingly give his own life for the
peace of the world. It was a poet’s dream, to be wrought out, not in
the stately march of rhythmic words, but in the more enduring language
of golden deeds.

Two good things, which seemed to bring nearer the fulfilment of his
dream, happened almost at the same time. His great antagonist, the
troubler of nations, who had hitherto made peace impossible, was laid
low; while to himself Christ came in conscious, realized presence,
saying to his soul, “I am thy salvation.” Was it strange if he thought
the great work Christ had given him to do was to establish this
longed-for peace upon the foundation of a firm and enduring faith in
Him? “Oh, how happy I am!” said he in one of those moments of private
intercourse with congenial friends in which heart and lips were opened.
“My Saviour is with me. I am a great sinner, but he will make me his
instrument in obtaining peace for the people. Oh, if all people would
understand the ways of Providence, if they would but obey the gospel,
how happy they would be!”

That splendid, impossible “if” was the rock upon which the whole
project--like a gallant bark richly freighted--foundered and was
wrecked. As it has been well said, “In desiring to Christianize the
world, Alexander attempted the impossible. He vainly flattered himself
that he could regulate according to the gospel the transactions of
nations and individuals who had never submitted to the gospel; but it
was the error of a noble heart, and so much the more excusable because,
uniting in himself the civil and religious supremacy within his own
empire, he had no means of ascertaining how far the reign of Christ is
not of this world. Because he misconceived this truth, he sowed his
path with inextricable difficulties, he saw his noble desires abandoned
to ridicule.”[68]

If the leading statesmen of Europe, to each of whom in turn the Holy
Alliance had to be submitted, did not venture to ridicule it openly,
it was not so much because the document came from an imperial hand,
as because they thought it involved them in difficulties of too grave
a character. It was natural that Metternich and Talleyrand should
hesitate to advise their sovereigns to sign such a paper; regarding it,
as they did, as a mere rodomontade, with no more bearing upon practical
business than a tale out of the Arabian Nights. Castlereagh’s letter
to Lord Liverpool presents a vivid picture of these perplexities. He
foresees that, “as Wilberforce is not yet in possession of the Great
Seal,” there may be some difficulty in passing the document through
the ordinary course of office; but he considerately hopes that no
person will blame the Prince Regent for not refusing to sign it, “when
the objection lies rather against the _excessive excellence_ than the
quality and nature of the engagement.”

Doubtless from their point of view the statesmen were right. The Holy
Alliance was an anachronism. The world was not ready for it. It was
like a spring flower which, opening ere the frosts of winter have
departed, is doomed to wither in their chill ungenial breath.

But the flower, though it perishes untimely, has not lived in vain. It
has told its tale and borne its message. It is not only one of Nature’s
unfulfilled promises, it is also one of her unconscious prophecies.
In every age and season there are hints and premonitions and vague
foreshadowings of that which is to follow, promises “which are written
upon the heart of things.” Winter has her prophecies of spring, and
spring of summer. It is the very nature of these to be abortive, or at
least to bear no fruit unto perfection. In one sense they are failures,
but in another they are nobler and more precious than all present
successes.

  “The high that proved too high, the heroic for earth too hard,
    The passion that left the ground to lose itself in the sky,
  Are music sent up to God by the lover and the bard,--
    Enough that He heard it once, we shall hear it by-and-by.
  _For what is our failure here but a triumph’s evidence
  For the fulness of the days?_”

The music that throbbed and swelled and found an utterance--imperfect,
indeed, but genuine--in the Holy Alliance, has not quite died
away amidst the laughter of fools, and the clamorous, discordant
voices of selfish politicians. “We shall hear it by-and-by,” when a
harmony serene and perfect--like that of the morning stars that sang
together--shall usher in the reign of peace and righteousness for which
the weary waiting earth has so long been yearning. For “the earth shall
be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters
cover the sea.” “The kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms
of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.”
“In his days shall the righteous flourish; and abundance of peace so
long as the moon endureth.” “Nation shall not lift up sword against
nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”



CHAPTER XXXVII.

AT NICOLOFSKY.

  “Do noble things, not dream them, all day long;
  So making death, life, and that vast for ever,
        One grand sweet song.”


“Yes, the first snow of winter is falling. Does my Clémence regret
exchanging the flowers of France for the snows of Russia?”

“_Do I?_” she asked, looking confidingly into Ivan’s face while she
leaned on his arm. They were standing at a window in the old castle
of Nicolofsky, watching the white flakes as they fell gently to the
ground. It was night, but a full moon shed its soft, pure radiance,
over the peaceful scene. “Our first night at home, Ivan,” she
continued. “I shall love this place. I am so glad we came here at once.”

“And I am so glad to hear you say so. I have often felt, Clémence, that
it was too generous, too unselfish of you and your mother to agree in
counselling me to decline the Emperor’s offer of a post in the Army of
Occupation, which would have kept us together in France, perhaps for
years.”

“You know, Ivan, that you are needed here.”

“I know it. I must get rid of Dmitri at once; and my only way of doing
so is by being my own steward. I fear he has used my poor friends here
very hardly. Yet, according to his light, he has been faithful; and
after Zoubof’s letter, pleading his cause so earnestly, I could not
well set him aside for another. It is true I neither respect Zoubof
nor like him,--though he has behaved very courteously to me, being
evidently well satisfied with whatever arrangements the Emperor made
with him about the estate.”

“If you are your own steward, Ivan, will you not have to remain here
all the year?”

“Not _quite_, m’amie,” Ivan answered smiling. “That would be too great
a sacrifice. For this winter, indeed, I purpose keeping my princess a
captive in fetters of frost and snow; and perhaps next summer we may
content ourselves with a visit to Moscow, our martyr city, of which it
is indeed true that we think upon her stones. But, if God will, the
following winter must be spent in St. Petersburg.”

“_I_ should be well content to stay here and work amongst these poor,
faithful-hearted people, who gave us such a loving welcome to-day. Some
of them wept with joy to see you again, Ivan.”

“Yes, Clémence, I love them dearly; and they love me with the love
they gave poor little Ivan Barrinka long ago. Still--the capital has
attractions--”

Clémence smiled. “It was a sacrifice for you to abandon the army,” she
said.

“How could I do otherwise? God gave me these people. Besides,” Ivan
added, “my great temptation to remain in the service was the hope of
one day becoming an imperial aide-de-camp. But for these posts there
are far too many candidates already. It will now be necessary for the
Czar to place his army upon a peace-footing, and a very difficult task
that will be.--But, m’amie, you have not told me yet what you think of
this old, tumble-down owl’s nest of a castle?”

“The château is much better than I expected, Ivan. A few judicious
repairs will do a great deal; and we can adorn and beautify as much
as we like. I mean to have the loveliest of gardens, in spite of the
climate; and to induce the good folk here, if possible, to care for
and cultivate a few flowers for themselves.”

Ivan shook his head. “And share the common fate of reformers,” he said.
“The mujik is a good fellow, but you will find it hard to move him. He
hates change, even change for the better. If he ever learn to read his
Bible, as I hope with God’s blessing he will, I think his favourite
text will be, ‘Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old
paths.’”

“And yet,” said Clémence, “you tell me he is wonderfully pliable and
imitative; that if you take the little mujik from his village you can
make of him anything you please--soldier, valet, coachman, musician,
even scholar or artist.”

“Yes; and you can make anything you please of a bar of iron--under
certain conditions. But it would be almost as easy to bend the cold
iron with your hand as to change the ways of the bearded mujik under
the roof of his own izba.--But I think, dearest, we must rejoin our
friends; I hear preparations for supper in the next room.”

Ivan had brought with him to Nicolofsky an alert, clever young German
doctor, and a gray-haired French priest. It had been his wish, no less
than that of Clémence herself, that his wife should enjoy the rites
of her own communion; and Henri, who spent much of his leisure in
visiting the poor, discovered amongst them an old acquaintance of the
family, who seemed exactly suited for the post of domestic chaplain to
Madame la Princesse Pojarsky. M. Grandpierre, a relative of the valued
and faithful steward of the De Talmonts, was the curé of a country
parish in La Vendée when the war broke out. He stoutly exhorted his
parishioners to fight for their King; marched with them to the field;
ministered to the wounded and shrived the dying, often amidst the rain
of Republican bullets. When the cause he loved was lost, he took refuge
in Paris; and there, after years of poverty, Henri found him in a
garret of the Faubourg St. Antoine. Many sorrows had tamed his fiery
spirit; he was now a humble, simple-minded old man, much more likely
to be the pupil of Clémence than her teacher. Dr. Krausekopf, a rising
young physician from Heidelberg, had been added to the establishment
of Prince Pojarsky, because Russian doctors were few and unskilful;
and Ivan knew it would be quite useless to introduce a Frenchman in
that capacity, at least if he wished the mujiks of Nicolofsky to profit
by his skill. With the exception of the priest and the doctor, the
household contained only two foreigners, the waiting-woman of Clémence,
who was a widow, and her child, a little girl.

The next morning, a deputation from the village came to the castle
to welcome their lord. Ivan went to meet them in the great hall; but
he turned back again, saying to Clémence as he took her hand, “Come,
dearest; I want to show my wife to the man who sheltered my helpless
childhood at his own peril. The good old starost is there, Clémence;
and Pope Nikita, the father of Anna Popovna.”

If anything could have made the mujiks of Nicolofsky doubt the
infallibility of their “Barrinka”--their loved prince and master--it
would have been his marriage with a Frenchwoman, a child of the
accursed race who had outraged the soil of holy Russia. But when the
graceful, gracious lady, with her sweet face, came amongst them, and
accepted their homage with such cordial and winning kindness, their
prejudices gave way; and they vanished entirely when she took in hers
the great hard hand of the aged starost, saying in broken Russian,
“Let me thank you, bativshka, for all the love you showed little Ivan
Barrinka. I must go soon and see your wife, who was his nurse.” For
the priest too she had a word of kindness; and to each of the rough,
bearded mujiks she gave her hand, which they were fain to kneel and
kiss. The starost gazed at her with tearful eyes, and said something
apart to Ivan. “He tells me,” Ivan explained, “that he thinks you so
like my mother, whom I never knew. But he prays that your fate may be
happier than hers.”

The months that followed were spent by Clémence and Ivan in endeavours
to benefit their people. Ivan repaired, as far as he could, every
wrong of which Dmitri had been guilty; and it was not his fault if any
mujik in Nicolofsky lacked bread, kvass, and kasha in abundance, wool
and sheepskins for clothing, or a well-built and comfortable izba. He
tried to restrict the consumption of vodka, and to promote honesty,
cleanliness, and truthfulness; though, it must be added, with only
partial success. Clémence did her part; and the peasants soon learned
to trust her as their own and their children’s friend. They loved her
still better when she acquired Russian enough to be an intelligent and
sympathetic listener; and in her turn to tell simple Bible stories,
chiefly of our Lord’s life and death, and most of them to her hearers
new and fascinating as a romance.

In the long evenings, Clémence and Ivan, with M. Grandpierre and
Dr. Krausekopf, gave many an hour to earnest, united study of the
Scriptures. The individual character and experience of each shed a
special light upon these readings. Ivan represented happy, confident,
child-like trust; Clémence devout thoughtfulness, rather tending
towards asceticism; Krausekopf intellectual doubt; and the old priest a
dim and groping faith, which, however, was growing every day more clear
and strong. Each helped the other; and the one great, ever-present
Teacher, who never fails those who seek him, was helping all.

Letters came to them regularly with tidings of their absent friends.
One day in the early spring Ivan entered the morning room of Clémence
with a radiant face, and in his hand a large packet. “The post has
come. Here, my Clémence,” he said, as he shared the spoils with her.
“Our friends have been good to us this time;” and he sat down at the
window to enjoy his own portion.

But, as he read, his face changed, and he cast an anxious, sorrowful
glance towards Clémence. Almost at the same moment a cry broke from her
lips, “Oh, Henri--Henri!” Ivan went quickly to her side, and laid his
hand tenderly on her shoulder.

“Henri has--has become a Protestant!” she faltered, in tones of dismay.

“So he tells me,” said Ivan. “This letter is from him. He writes like
the noble-hearted Christian man that he is. Clémence, you must not
grieve for him. He has done well to obey the voice of his conscience.”

“But our mother--it is such a blow for her,” Clémence said mournfully.

“Yes; I am sorry for her--_very_. But, m’amie, God will help her to
bear it, and bring good out of it in the end. _I_ do not think the
change of creed such a weighty matter. What does anything else signify,
so long as a man believes in our Lord Jesus Christ?” After a pause he
resumed, taking up another letter, “Emile will give us an impartial
statement of the case. Let us see what he says.”

“Emile has behaved well,” Clémence observed, looking over the remainder
of her letter. “My mother says Madame de Salgues was so angry, that,
but for Emile, she and Henri must have left her house and gone to
live in some poor lodging. But Emile reasoned with her, reminding her
that he himself was once an infidel and a scoffer, which is worse
than a Protestant, yet she never dreamed of forbidding him the house;
and so, not being noticed, he grew tired of scoffing, and became in
time like other people. He told her Henri would probably do the same;
and pleaded, moreover, that his conduct had been always regular and
blameless, and could bring nothing but credit to any one.”

“He says as much for him here,” said Ivan, reading from Emile’s letter.
“‘My cousin is really miserable about the soul of her son, which she
thinks to be in peril; while my grandmother is only annoyed at what she
considers a social degradation. In the eyes of the one, Protestantism
is heretical; in those of the other, it is “bourgeoise.” My grandmother
fancies that Henri was demoralized by his campaign under the Emperor’s
standard, whereas Henri himself says that it was only then he learned
what religion meant. I cannot profess to understand the matter, not
being myself religious; but there is certainly a curious connection,
not to say confusion, between saintliness and heresy. Henri is
religious--he is “converted;” yet he is called a heretic, and mourned
over by your excellent mother-in-law as next to an infidel, and on the
highroad to perdition. He has a fast friend in little Stéphanie, who
takes his part in season and out of season. I am rather glad of it; for
the child had almost ceased to be amusing, Madame de Krudener tamed her
so effectually.’--You must write to your mother, Clémence,” said Ivan,
laying down the letter, “and pray her to be tender and patient with
Henri.”

“_That_ will be needless,” Clémence answered. “To my mother Henri will
be as a sick child who needs a fourfold share of tenderness. I know her
well. Fondly as she clung to him before, he will be closer than ever
to her now.--One thing is certain, Ivan. We can no longer hope for a
visit from her next summer. Until Henri’s education as an architect is
finished, no power on earth will move her from his side. Our only hope
is that hereafter, through the kindness of the Emperor, some work may
be found for him in this country.”

“It _shall_ be found,” said Ivan, in his bright, confident way. “Here,
at least, religious differences create no prejudice. A man may profess
what creed he pleases, so that he does not outrage public order,
or make proselytes from the national Church. We Russians are very
tolerant.”

“Is not toleration sometimes only indifference under a mask?” asked
Clémence. “Ah, when will men learn the secret of holding truth dearer
than life, and yet being gentle and patient with those who do not see
it through their eyes?”

“Some secrets are only learned in ‘the secret place of the Most High,’”
Ivan answered softly.

Neither he nor Clémence was at all aware that they themselves were
slipping unconsciously from the moorings of their own ancestral creeds,
and that their study of the Scriptures was bringing them nearer day by
day to the present standpoint of Henri.

Not long after this sorrow, joy came to the household. When the first
days of the short Russian summer smiled upon Nicolofsky, a little guest
was sent to the old castle. Very proud was Ivan of his first-born
child; and to Clémence it seemed as if no one since the beginning of
the world had ever been so happy as she. It was agreed that the babe
should bear the name of Madame de Talmont; so a little “Rose” budded
soft and fair amidst the snows of Russia, giving promise of one day
unfolding its petals in full beauty and fragrance.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

A ROSEBUD.

  “Mais elle etait de ce monde où les meilleures choses
          Ont le pire destin;
  Et Rose elle a vécu ce que vivent les roses,
          L’espèce d’un printemps.”


A happy quiet year passed away at Nicolofsky; then Ivan and Clémence
removed to St. Petersburg, where they established themselves for the
coming winter in one of the palaces on the Fontanka. Clémence, upon
this her first visit, found the city wonderful and fascinating in its
very strangeness. It seemed a thing of yesterday; the magnificent
buildings, the stately streets and squares, looked as if they had
sprung into being at the touch of an enchanter’s wand. Not yet had the
hand of time left its impress anywhere. When she arrived, all was life,
colour, animation; every pulse of the great city was throbbing, and
the din of its multitudinous and busy noises smote strangely upon ears
accustomed to the quiet of the country. But soon a change came. The
snow spread its soft white mantle over the crowded thoroughfares, the
sounds of traffic were hushed, the steps of passers-by fell silently,
and the bright blue waters of the Neva were chained by the genii of the
frost. “It is like a city of the dead,” thought Clémence.

But she thought differently when Ivan took her, well wrapped in furs,
for her first winter drive in St. Petersburg. It was pleasant to glide
rapidly through the clear frosty air along the Neva Prospekt, filled
with glittering throngs on foot or in gaily-decorated sledges. Costumes
the most various and striking showed that every race and kindred, from
Persia and Japan in the far East to the forests of America in the
West, had its representatives in that northern metropolis. Tartars
in their robes of fur, Cossacks in their hooded cloaks, mingled with
bearded Russians in blue caftans, and Englishmen and Germans in the
sober attire patronized by modern Europeans. Officers in uniform were
without number; and the robes of ecclesiastics, Romish as well as
Greek, diversified the scene; while fair ladies, in elegant though
slightly exaggerated Parisian toilets, bowed from their sledges
to their friends, or alighted at the doors of the handsome and
brilliantly-decorated shops.

Their life in the capital was full of interest to Clémence and Ivan.
The best and most brilliant society received them with open arms.
Ivan’s comrades in the late war gathered round him, and many were their
pleasant social meetings. Clémence was soon presented at Court, and
won the marked approval of the dignified Empress Mother, and--what she
prized much more highly--the favour of the gentle Empress Elizabeth.
Both the Empresses found their chief enjoyment in assisting the Emperor
in his works of mercy. The more active disposition of the elder led her
to take delight in the management of the great Foundling Hospital (her
especial favourite); also in the establishment for the education of
young ladies; in the School for the Deaf and Dumb, where the methods of
the Abbé Sicard were being carried out with diligence and success; and
in many other institutions, which were either founded or fostered by
the benevolence of Alexander. When the Winter Palace set the example,
it was no marvel that charity became the fashion in St. Petersburg. Not
from fashion, but from a far higher motive, Clémence and Ivan engaged
heartily in such pursuits, spending much of their leisure and their
substance in the work of serving “Christ in his poor.”

There were at this time in the best society of St. Petersburg two
distinct religious circles, differing widely, and each in its own way
very influential. At the Sardinian Embassy, the “old man eloquent,”
Count de Maistre,--with his white hair and eyes of fire, his “esprit
fin” indescribable in English, his keen, quick sympathies, and his
brave, high, chivalrous spirit,--strove hard to turn the stream of
religious thought into a strong and steady current leading Romewards.
He was worthy to have been the champion of a better cause; but he and
those like him never really knew for what they were contending. They
were as loyal-hearted soldiers who fight and die heroically beneath the
banner of a usurper, honestly believing they are serving their true
king. Madame Svetchine, Countess Tolstoi, and other devout women, were
just then yielding to the fascination of De Maistre’s eloquence; and
a colony of Jesuits, zealous, active, and not over-scrupulous, were
furthering the work of proselytism after their peculiar fashion.

Around Prince Galitzin, Alexander Tourgenieff, Princess Metchersky,
and others of a similar character, there gathered a very different
circle--earnest students of Scripture, simple evangelical Christians,
with whom faith and love were the fulfilling of the law, and forms
occupied a very subordinate place. These were in constant communication
with the leaders of the evangelical movement in other countries, and
especially with the agents of the Bible Society. They knew themselves
the objects of suspicion and aversion, not only to the Romanizing
party, but also to the zealous members of the Greek Church, the men
of the old school, who were strongly attached to things as they were,
and jealous of all reform. But they were strengthened by the knowledge
that the heart of the Emperor was with them, though his sense of
justice made him endeavour to hold the balance evenly between the
contending parties, and his natural attachment to the Church of which
he was the head deterred him from any course that he thought likely to
endanger its stability or weaken its influence. Ivan from the first,
and eventually Clémence also, gave a decided preference to the society
of Galitzin and his friends; although they occasionally frequented the
Sardinian Embassy, and Clémence found a warm personal friend in the
Countess Tolstoi.

The Christmas festivities drew on, and Clémence and Ivan were amongst
the guests invited to the grand ball and supper given at the Winter
Palace to celebrate the Emperor’s birthday. Ivan was extremely
anxious that Clémence should be present at one of these magnificent
entertainments, which had all the brilliancy imperial wealth and
splendour could give, with the addition of what does not always
accompany them--the charm of exquisite taste and “sovereign elegance.”
He returned from the levee, where he had spent most of the day, in
high spirits and full of pleasurable anticipation. But his surprise
was great to find Clémence, still in her usual dress, bending with a
troubled face over the cot in which their little Rosebud lay.

“Surely there is nothing wrong with our darling?” he said, stooping
tenderly over the sleeping babe. “It cannot be. She was so bright and
full of life when I left you this morning.”

“There is something wrong,” Clémence whispered, looking up, but
scarcely stirring, for the little hand of the sleeping child had
closed about her mother’s finger. “I cannot but be anxious, since
that terrible attack of croup she had when the cold weather began.
Listen!--her breathing is still quick, though quieter now than an hour
ago. But I must be here to do what is wanted--and to do it at once. I
_cannot_ go with you, Ivan,” she said pleadingly.

Ivan was greatly disappointed, but he would not combat his wife’s
resolve. After a pause, he said gently, “It shall be as you like,
dearest. I see little Rosebud is stronger than the Czar.”

“Say all that is right for me,” Clémence continued. “But I don’t think
you will have any trouble there. We have not only imperial courtesy to
deal with, but kind hearts and true.”

“Hearts that often bleed beneath their purple trappings,” Ivan
answered. “The Empress Elizabeth does not appear at this ball: she is
mourning to-night for the death of a little girl whom she had adopted,
and to whom she was tenderly attached. ‘Every one dies in whom I take
an interest,’ she says. Perhaps her own frail health makes her look the
more sorrowfully upon all things. Pray for her, Clémence.”

“Indeed I will. How the happy ought to pray for those on whom life’s
shadows seem to fall! _We_ have all sunshine, Ivan.”

But even then a shadow was falling over their happy home. The little
Rosebud, so lovingly watched and tended, was fading quickly. When Ivan
returned that night from the Winter Palace, with its splendour, its
lights, its music, his own dwelling was hushed and still. The Master
had come for their treasure. Unmurmuringly, though with tearful eyes
and aching hearts, they gave it into his keeping. They might have said,
had they known the words,--

  “God took thee in his arms, a lamb untasked, untried;
  He fought the fight for thee, he won the victory,
          And thou art sanctified.”



CHAPTER XXXIX.

MORNING SUNSHINE.

  “The lonely glory of a throne
    May yet this lowly joy deserve;
  Kings may make that a stepping-stone,
    And change ‘I reign’ into ‘I serve.’”


Two or three weeks later Clémence sat alone one afternoon. A bright
wood fire burned on the hearth, and on a little table near her
lay a pile of needlework--garments for the poor. But just then
she was occupied with a letter from her mother, written in happy
unconsciousness of the sorrow which had fallen upon her dear ones; and
she could not help a few tears which dropped quietly upon the page,
full of questions and remarks about their little Rosebud.

While she was reading Ivan came in, with more brightness in his face
and animation in his step than had been there since Christmas eve. But
he saw the tears, and stooping down kissed her tenderly.

“What is it, m’amie?” he whispered.

“These letters, dear,” she answered, looking up with the smile of
welcome _his_ entrance never failed to win from her. “My mother’s is
about our Rosebud.” After a pause and a little sigh she added, “The
only important news she tells us is that our friend M. de Sartines is
dead.”

“Indeed! I am very sorry.”

“So am I, especially for Stéphanie. She has written to me herself,
poor child--a long letter, but I have not read it yet.”

“Does our mother give any particulars?” asked Ivan.

“Only that his illness was a short one--inflammation on the lungs.
She says Stéphanie has behaved admirably, tending her father bravely
and carefully, and watching beside him to the very end. She is almost
heart-broken.”

“Poor little one!--How lonely she must be! I wish we could bring her
here. _You_ would comfort her, Clémence.”

Ivan paused; then resumed, with a slight touch of uneasiness in his
voice, “M’amie, will it trouble you if a friend comes to visit us
to-night?”

A look of pain passed swiftly over the face of Clémence. The sorrowing
heart is prone to shrink within itself, and to dread the first breath
of outer air, the first touch of common life. “Not if it is only an
intimate friend,” she said at last, “such as M. Tolstoi or M. Adrian
Wertsch; but I should not quite care to see a stranger, Ivan.”

“It is no stranger; it is one whom we both love.” Then he returned
rather nervously to the subject of the letters, asking what would
become of Stéphanie.

“For the present she is to be sent to the pension where her cousin
Coralie is,” Clémence answered. “Her uncle, who is now her guardian,
appears to wish it, and she herself is indifferent. La Tante has not
been very well of late, Ivan; she seems to be in low spirits, but I am
thankful to say she is becoming reconciled to Henri’s change; and he,
for his part, writes very cheerfully. The best judges in the profession
he has adopted think highly of his talent. He has just gained some
prize for a design;--but I have not yet finished reading his letter.”

So they talked on, until at last Ivan suggested preparations for
tea, and rather to the surprise of Clémence interested himself in
them in a way quite foreign to his usual habits. She only looked at
him wonderingly, and with a little amusement, as he arranged and
rearranged the tea-table; but when he actually began to make inquiries
about the quality of the beverage itself, her eyes, so lately tearful,
sparkled into a smile as she asked,--

“When did _you_ become a connoisseur in these things, Ivan? I thought
the difference between tea and coffee was the extent of your knowledge
on the subject.”

Ivan, instead of answering, kissed her; then taking a white camellia
from a vase on the table, he fastened it at the throat of her plain
black dress. “My Clémence must look her best to receive the Emperor,”
he said.

“The _Emperor_!” she cried in dismay. “Oh, Ivan, why did you not tell
me?”

Before he could reply a sledge stopped at the door, and Ivan hastened
down to welcome his guest.

Clémence had scarcely recovered her composure when the Emperor entered
the room, saying pleasantly,--

“I must make my apologies to Madame la Princesse for inviting myself.
Prince Ivan Ivanovitch is responsible: he gave me permission to take
you by surprise, and promised me a welcome.”

The promised welcome was given by Clémence, very gracefully and
cordially, in spite of a little tremulousness in her voice and
nervousness in her manner. One gentle, significant word of sympathy for
her sorrow was spoken; then, all ceremony being waived, they took their
seats together at the table, the Emperor declining the “fauteuil” Ivan
placed for him, and choosing an ordinary chair instead.

“You know I am deaf,” he said; “let me sit where I can best hear the
voice of madame.”[69]

As, with a hand still trembling, Clémence poured out the tea, she
remembered the stories she had heard of such evening visits made by the
Emperor, “to talk at his ease,” and recalled the words of De Maistre
when some one criticised this habit in his presence: “It is a touching
thing to me to see the ruler of a great empire, in the age of all the
passions, find his recreation in taking a cup of tea with an honest man
and his wife.”

In the meantime her place behind the “samovar” was no sinecure, for
the Emperor drank many cups of tea, while he talked earnestly with
Ivan upon the things of which his heart was full--schools, hospitals,
and prison reforms. He soon drew Clémence into the conversation. Her
interest in the institutions of St. Petersburg was evidently well
known to him, and he asked her opinion on various matters of detail,
especially about the school for the deaf and dumb. Then they talked
of primary schools, and of the Lancastrian system, which he had sent
commissioners to England to investigate with a view of adopting it in
Russia. This led to the general subject of education, which he remarked
ought not to be merely mechanical, but adapted to the development of
the intelligence.

“Some teachers would turn their pupils into absolute machines,” he
said, “by way of levelling their path to knowledge.”

Here the soft voice of Clémence broke in. “Ought not religion to be the
foundation of all education?” she asked somewhat timidly.

“If education is, properly speaking, the extension of light,” said the
Emperor, “surely it ought first of all to extend the true light--the
light that shineth in darkness.”

As a means to this end, he spoke of the translation of the Bible into
the vulgar tongue, a work which he was then urging forward with all
his influence. He gratefully acknowledged the services of the noble
British and Foreign Bible Society, and spoke with enthusiasm of that
and other agencies which were promoting the cause of Christ throughout
the world. The extent and accuracy of his knowledge of missionary
work astonished Clémence and Ivan. They learned afterwards that every
Saturday morning Prince Galitzin used to bring him, by his own desire,
all the information on the subject he could obtain during the week.
It was from the study of the Divine Word that he had himself obtained
light and comfort; and therefore, as he said, he “reckoned it his most
sacred duty” to disseminate that word.

Clémence, who had been a little disturbed by the warnings of De
Maistre and other enemies of the Bible Society about the danger of
misinterpreting Scripture, ventured to ask whether it might not be well
to associate some simple commentary with the text of the Bible.

“Commentaries have this inconvenience,” he said in reply, “that they
substitute more or less for the text of Scripture the ideas of some
one who interprets it according to his own system. These ideas will
not be accepted by all. But it ought to be the aim of every Christian,
whatever communion he may belong to, to allow the sacred Code in all
its extent to act upon him with perfect freedom. This action cannot be
otherwise than beneficent and stimulating, as may be expected from a
divine book--from the Book of books.”

“Where there is faith to receive it,” Ivan threw in, “it produces in
all alike certain great results, yet with important differences.”

“True,” he resumed. “Its action will be different in each individual,
and just because of this difference is it grand and extraordinary. It
makes of each individual whatever it is possible to make of him with
regard to his particular nature. Is not unity in variety the grand
point at which we seek to arrive, in order to secure the prosperity
of Churches and of States? Everywhere in external nature we see this
principle of unity in variety, and we perceive it also in the history
of nations: only, we must not take for a measure the short space of
our own lives; it is to ages and decades of ages we must look when
we seek to judge of the result of a great struggle between opposing
forces. Upon all the children of time and of party spirit--such as
contradictions, lies, vain interpretations--time itself does justice;
they evaporate like foam, and are gone. Truth remains. But the action
of truth is slow; often centuries elapse before it is accepted. Still
it makes way; the means exist not of sealing it hermetically, as some
would do with the Holy Scriptures. Do not the rays of the sun make
their way? and those who live in their brightness are the children of
light.”[70]

No one cared to break the silence that followed these eager, burning
words. The same thought was throbbing in the heart of Clémence and
of Ivan--that it was a grand and beautiful thing, a precious gift of
God, to be allowed to work for that great future victory of truth and
light. “But how little a woman can do,” Clémence thought sadly. “Still,
every word and deed of kindness, every message of divine love passed
on to one poor waiting soul, helps the cause as truly as does the Czar
himself in throwing wide open before the Bible the gates of his vast
empire.” Almost before she was aware, she had uttered something of her
thought.

“Ah, but you would be wrong indeed to think yourself useless,” said
the Emperor in his courteous way. “Good women are true benefactors of
society, by their example and the influence of their virtues. In their
presence one seems to breathe a purer moral atmosphere.”

“I think, sire,” said Ivan, “that every human soul possesses influence,
even the soul of a little child.”

His thoughts, and those of Clémence also, turned to an empty cot in
the next room. Quiet talk followed, of which their little one was
the theme,--sweet converse about “the ransom for that baby paid,” and
the home to which she had been taken. It was truly “from very heart
to very heart” that hour. At last the Emperor rose to take his leave;
and not until then did Clémence venture to say something that _must_
be said--something that she might reproach herself all her life if she
lost this opportunity of saying.

“Sire, I have one brother, dear to me as my own soul, and he charged
me solemnly, if ever I had the privilege of speaking with your Majesty
face to face, to tell you that he will bless until his latest hour _the
aide-de-camp of St. Priest_.” Then in a few brief words she told the
story of Henri’s deliverance.

The Czar was much moved. Not so often did the blessings of the many
he tried to bless reach his ears. His successor might well say that
he “had before his eyes, in his brother, the example of a sovereign
whose whole existence was an incessant sacrifice to duty, and who
nevertheless had so seldom succeeded in securing even gratitude,
at least from his contemporaries.” Yet we have evidence that when
gratitude came to him he found it very sweet. After a pause, he said
gently,--

“Madame, I have only done my duty. What is called the right of reprisal
has always seemed terrible to me. The only revenge we ought to take is
in doing good.”

By this time the Emperor’s famous coachman, Ilya, who had spent the
evening with the servants of Ivan, a much-honoured and fêted guest, had
in readiness the unpretending sledge in which his imperial master drove
about his capital.

“Have you forgiven me, dearest?” asked Ivan, when he returned from
attending their august visitor to the door. “It is the first time I
ever kept a secret from you.”

Clémence looked in his radiant face, and her only answer was a smile.

“He is charmed with you,” Ivan went on delighted. “I knew it would
be so. He admired you even the first day he saw you--the day of the
review in the Plaine des Vertus. How well he looks, does he not,
Clémence?”

“Yes; well, but worn; and there is a weary look in his eyes. I think he
needs rest, Ivan.”

Ivan shook his head a little sadly. “Do you know where he is going
now?” he asked.

“Home, I suppose; it is midnight.”

“Ilya tells our people he is going to visit the hospitals. He goes
sometimes at midnight, to ascertain that the patients are as well cared
for by night as by day.[71] Yet to-morrow morning at six o’clock he
will be in his cabinet or on parade.”

“The light that shines must burn, and burn out,” said Clémence. “But,
Ivan,” she added with hesitation, “may I say something?”

“What thing is there which you may _not_ say, my Clémence?”

“There is one thing which you would not hear from any lip on earth--a
word of blame for your Czar. But do not think I mean it so if I
ask, could not some life less precious be found to spend itself in
these ministrations? Would not he do well to remember the warning of
Jethro--‘Thou wilt surely wear away, thou, and this people that is with
thee; for this thing is too heavy for thee’?”

“Clémence, you do not know our Russians. I love them well, yet I see
their faults, which are something like those of clever, ill-educated
children, but on a gigantic scale. They are, when they choose it, the
most accomplished of deceivers. They can elaborate and carry out a
fraud with a patient ingenuity, a consummate dexterity, that one is
tempted to call quite artistic. When the Czarina Catherine travelled
through the empire, her courtiers of course wished her to imagine it in
a state of the highest prosperity; so they erected mock villages along
her route, and drove to the neighbourhood herds of cattle, and troops
of well-dressed peasants to greet her with smiles and acclamations.
It takes all the vigilance of my Czar, and all his careful personal
inspection, to guard against similar deceptions; and I fear that even
he does not always succeed.”

“Is not the remedy for this want of truth, as for other evils, to be
found in the dissemination of the Word of truth?” asked Clémence.

“Surely it is,” said Ivan with a brightening look. “Do you not feel,
Clémence, as if the spring were come,--as if every plant were budding
with new, glorious life? Amongst the princes of the earth, one says,
‘I am the Lord’s;’ another subscribes with his hand unto the Lord, and
surnames himself by the name of the God of Israel. His Word is loved,
honoured, scattered broadcast amongst the people. Think of the joy of
having it in our common tongue, Clémence--the tongue in which the babe
lisps to its mother, and the gray-haired mujik tells his stories of the
past as he sits beside his stove! Soon, I hope, in the izbas of every
village throughout the length and breadth of our land, the father will
be reading to the children the story of their Saviour’s love. I learned
to-day two things which rejoiced my heart about the home I have never
ceased to love--holy Moscow, the city of our solemnities.”

“Tell them to me, Ivan.”

“One is a joy to me upon grounds purely personal, and I think it
will please you also. As an ornament for the restored city, the Czar
is about to raise a stately monument to the memory of my patriotic
ancestor and his brave associate. ‘To Prince Pojarsky and Citizen
Minim, from grateful Russia,’ so runs the simple and noble inscription.
But, what is far better, he has just given to the Bible Society, for
its storehouse and head-quarters, that great old building which was
formerly the office of the secret police. Think of Bibles being laid up
in what used to be the torture-chamber! How quickly and how gloriously
the rays of the Sun of Righteousness are rising upon us! They are
flooding with light even those dark places of the earth which used to
be the habitations of cruelty.”

“But is there not something else still to be wished for, Ivan? Those
free Bibles you speak of, should you not wish to see them read and
loved by free peasants?”

“That is coming too,” said Ivan, with rapt look and confident voice.
“Every one who knows the Czar knows that his cherished dream--his
favourite, his ruling idea--is now, as it has ever been, the
emancipation of the serfs.[72] Through the facilities he has afforded
and the encouragement he has given, many have been freed already. Count
Sergius Romanzoff, for instance, has given liberty to all his serfs.”

“And why not Prince Ivan Pojarsky?” asked Clémence in a low voice, as
she laid her hand on his arm and looked earnestly into his face.

“You utter the voice of my own heart, Clémence. Often have I thought of
this. But--” He broke off his unfinished sentence, and began to pace
the room with rapid footsteps.

Clémence took up the last word. “But--there are many difficulties,” she
said.

“One is quite sufficient, for the present,” Ivan pursued. “The people
of Nicolofsky are not fit for greater freedom than they have now; they
would not know how to use it. Let us train them for it,” he added as he
stopped before her chair.

“Which already we are trying to do, are we not?” asked Clémence.

“Yes,” he said. “That is God’s work for us. Part of it. There is work
here, too--noble, blessed work. How good it is of our Father in heaven
to cast our lot in such times as these, Clémence. Surely they are the
last times, when ‘the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established
in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills, and
all nations shall flow unto it;’ when ‘they shall teach no more every
man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord:
for all shall know him, from the least to the greatest.’--Surely we
shall live to see that blessed consummation, you and I.”

In the bright enthusiasm of their youth they forgot the words of
Alexander, “It is to ages and decades of ages we must look;” nor
perhaps did he always remember them himself. But the next thought of
Clémence was one very natural to the still aching heart of the bereaved
mother. “If only our little Rosebud could have lived to see it too,”
she said.

“Ay,” said Ivan. Then after a pause he added, “But she sees Christ,
which is far better.”



CHAPTER XL.

MORNING CLOUDS.

  “Waft, waft, ye winds, His story;
    And you, ye waters, roll,
  Till like a sea of glory
    It spreads from pole to pole;
  Till o’er our ransomed nature
    The Lamb for sinners slain,
  Redeemer, King, Creator,
    In bliss returns to reign.”


Bright days followed for Clémence and Ivan--days of noble striving and
endeavour, of “taking root downwards” in thought and experience, and of
“bearing fruit upwards” in loving helpful toil for others. Their little
Rosebud was not forgotten. The baby guest whose visit was so brief that
it seemed to come and go like a dream left an abiding blessing behind
her. Heaven looked nearer and more real to the parents whose treasure
was there already; and labour felt more sweet for Him who had her in
his keeping. Thenceforward the tender, introspective spirit of Clémence
grew more and more into the glad undoubting faith of Ivan. Nor did the
little cot remain empty; for God sent them other gifts--in the course
of the next three years two baby boys came to gladden their home.

Meanwhile the stirrings of new life seemed to pervade ever more and
more the land in which they lived. It was something like what the
early Reformation era had been in the elder lands of Europe. Nor was
it only the rich and great who shared the blessing; to the poor also
the gospel was preached. One morning late in spring, when the frost
and snow had at last disappeared and the Neva was navigable again,
Ivan stood on the quay watching what was then to the inhabitants of
St. Petersburg a strange sight and new. Amidst the numerous boats that
cleft the blue waters with the aid of sail and oar came an unfamiliar
monster, panting and puffing on its rapid way with an air of conscious
power, while a dense column of steam issuing from its funnel bore
witness to the triumph of modern science. Ivan gazed and wondered,
until his attention was distracted by an exclamation in a voice he
knew--“_Great St. Nicholas!_”

Turning a little, he saw beside him a sergeant of artillery, who was
lifting up one hand in amazement.

“Michael Ivanovitch!” he cried. “I am heartily glad to see you. And so
you have got your promotion,” he added, touching his epaulette.

“Yes, Barrinka; and two orders,” returned Michael, proudly showing the
badges to Ivan. “We have just been sent here from Moscow, where we were
stationed since September twelve-months.”

“You must come home with me,” said Ivan. “My wife will be delighted to
see you. She will send an account of your visit to your mother; for she
writes a long letter every fortnight to Pope Nikita, with messages for
half Nicolofsky.”

“I shall soon be able to write to my mother myself, Barrinka,” said
Michael with an air of pride as he walked beside Ivan to the Fontanka.
“It only takes one hand to do that,” he explained.

“But it takes learning,” returned Ivan laughing. “I did not know you
were a scholar, Michael.”

“Oh yes, Barrinka; there is a school in our regiment now, and we are
learning to read and write. Barrinka, is it true that the words of the
blessed Lord,” he asked, crossing himself, “will soon be all turned
into Russ and put into a printed book, which any poor man like me will
be able to read if only he knows his kirillitza?”[73]

“Quite true; I have myself seen the translation of the Four Gospels.”

“I have a little bit of it already. See, Barrinka.” He took from his
pocket a printed copy of extracts from the New Testament. These had
been selected by the excellent Quakers Allen and Grellet, printed
by the Emperor’s express orders, and distributed for use in all the
primary schools which he had established in the army and throughout the
empire.

“It is full of the most beautiful things about the blessed Bog Sūn,”
continued Michael: “how he healed the sick and gave sight to the blind;
how he died for our sins, and rose again the third day; and how every
one who believes in him will get a free pardon for his sake, and have
part in the resurrection of the just. What a wonderful thing it is for
a poor man to be able to read all this for himself, just as well as if
he were a pope or a monk! One of my comrades has a book too, written
by an Englishman, which the Czar himself got turned into Russ--it is
called ‘No Cross, no Crown.’[74] Besides telling how the Son of God
bore the cross for us, it tells how we must bear any cross he sends us
for his sake; and how, if we follow him here, we shall have a crown of
glory by-and-by in his kingdom,--a crown of glory, like the Czar! Only
think of that, Barrinka! I can scarcely make up my mind to believe it;
and I am longing to get _all_ the words of Christ to read for myself,
that I may know if it is true. But, to be sure, the Czar must know.”

“To be sure he knows! It is all true, Michael; I can show you the words
myself in which it is promised, and read them with you.”

“Oh, how good of you! Still, I am thinking that rather than be a king
myself up yonder--which is what I am no way fit for--I would like to go
on serving the Czar there, as I do here. Would not you, Barrinka?”

“I think so _now_. But how it will be with me then I cannot tell. ‘It
doth not yet appear what we shall be.’ Christ’s promise is enough: ‘I
will give thee a crown of life’--‘To him that overcometh will I grant
to sit with me in my throne.’ Yet is it said too, ‘They serve him day
and night in his temple.’”

By this time they had reached the gate of Ivan’s palace. Clémence
gladly renewed her acquaintance with the friend of her husband’s
boyhood; she gave him a hospitable welcome, and, to his intense
delight, showed him her two lovely boys, the elder just able to lisp
his father’s name, the younger a three months’ babe in the cradle.

From that time Ivan’s old playfellow was a frequent visitor. Clémence
helped him in the studies of which he was so proud; and they had many
a quiet happy talk together about Him of whom the Book they loved so
well testified in every page. Eventually, however, the current of their
lives divided, and swept them apart, never probably to meet again on
this side of the grave. But the lessons they had learned remained
with both, and both in their several spheres sought to pass them on
to others. Many years afterwards, a German traveller[75] in Russia
visited the churches of St. Petersburg, as an interested spectator of
the touching Russian custom of the reading of the Scriptures on Easter
eve by the people for one another. He tells us that in one of these
churches he saw a veteran soldier, scarred and weather-beaten, standing
at the desk with a taper in his hand reading the story of his Saviour’s
death to a company of little children who clustered around him,
listening to the sacred words with absorbed and breathless attention.
Perhaps he failed to notice, or perhaps he did not think it worth while
to chronicle, that the reader had lost a hand.

Never can it be known, until the great day of revelation, how many
hearts at this epoch received life and blessing from the Word of God,
scattered broadcast throughout the great Russian Empire, not only
with the approbation, but with the earnest personal co-operation, of
its monarch. “For,” said Alexander, “I consider this undertaking not
merely worthy of my attention; no, I am penetrated by it to the inmost
recesses of my soul. And I reckon the promotion of it my most sacred
duty, because on it depends the temporal and eternal happiness of those
whom Providence has committed to my care. Blessed are those who take a
part in it; for such gather fruit unto life eternal, when those who sow
and those who reap shall rejoice together.”[76]

But he who uttered these noble words in all the glow and ardour of
his first love, had soon cause to remember that the bearer of the
precious seed too often goes on his way weeping. As time wore on it
became apparent that the hand of the enemy was busy sowing tares with
it. Religious activity began to fulfil its inevitable condition by
engendering religious dissension. Doubts and perplexities arose, and
the noise of angry controversies filled the air. Many devout and noble
spirits, alienated by the stiff mechanical formalism of the Eastern
ritual, turned their longing eyes towards the West, where stood great
Babylon with the golden cup in her hand wherewith she deceived the
nations by her sorceries. They knew her doctrines very imperfectly,
her history not at all. Hence they yielded too readily to the baleful
fascination; and at length the perversions grew so numerous that
even the tolerant Czar was obliged to interfere. He banished the
Jesuits--the most active promoters of proselytism--first from the two
capitals, eventually from the empire. This step cost him some dear
and valued friends; nor were all as generous and discriminating as De
Maistre, who could say, even when he thought he had lost the favour of
Alexander, “I am as sure of his justice as of his existence.”

From Madame de Krudener and her coterie he was also forced to separate
himself. They criticised his public policy, and endeavoured to
prescribe to him the line of action he ought to pursue, especially
with regard to the Greeks. Alexander never forgot the past: he treated
Madame de Krudener with great gentleness and forbearance, and never
ceased to show her thoughtful personal kindness; but he had to tell her
that he could allow no interference with his duties as monarch.

Nor was this the worst. All was not sunshine in the path of evangelical
reform; and even the dissemination of the Word of truth did not
seem to bring with it the unalloyed blessing that had at first been
anticipated. On the contrary, there appeared to be some foundation for
the gloomy forebodings of De Maistre, who, as a Roman Catholic, saw in
the Bible Society only a means for overturning the whole ecclesiastical
establishment of Russia. “Protestants on one side and Raskolniks[77]
on the other,” said he, “are two files which saw the religion of the
country at each end, and they must soon meet.” Everywhere the new
wine was fermenting and threatening to rend the old bottles. Ignorant
soldiers and peasants rushed into wild forms of fanatical dissent, or
tore down and destroyed sacred pictures, justifying their acts out
of the Russian Testaments their Czar himself had distributed amongst
them. Photi, and other zealots of the Greek Church,--who had their own
reasons for dreading the influx of evangelical light,--eagerly took
advantage of these disorders, not only to denounce such men as Galitzin
and Tourgenieff, “who defy us the heirs of the apostles,” but to ask
the official head of the national Church whether he intended to stand
by and see her torn to pieces, nay, himself to assist in the work of
destruction?

This was a question Alexander certainly could not answer in the
affirmative. It is evident that he loved the Church of his fathers;
that he thought her superstitions mere excrescences which might be
removed without seriously endangering her fabric; that he believed
her maintenance necessary to the welfare of his people; and that he
knew there was nothing ready to replace her. Hence his course of
action satisfied no one; he earned the envenomed abuse of the bigots
of the Greek Church, who traced all the disorders of the country to
the translation of the Bible and the education of the poor; while at
the same time he did not quite fulfil the sanguine expectations of the
friends of evangelical light and progress. But after all, this does
not matter so greatly. The important question is, how far he satisfied
the Master in whose presence he tried to walk. This is not for us to
decide; but at least we know that no influence, no persuasion, ever
moved him to withdraw his help and countenance from the Bible Society,
or to allow its work to be impeded in any way.

As for Clémence and Ivan, the Romanizing party had never possessed any
attraction for the latter, while the former was gradually receding from
the creed in which she had been brought up. But the conflict between
the Evangelical and what was called the “Orthodox” party was of deep
interest to them both. They went heartily along with Galitzin and
his friends; Ivan was even sometimes tempted to go beyond them, and
altogether to snap the cords that bound him to the national Church. The
superstitious practices which prevail in the Eastern Church, as well
as in that of the West, cost him many keen and bitter “searchings of
heart.” He was especially troubled about the adoration of saints and
angels and of sacred pictures. Often did he talk upon these matters
with Clémence, and earnestly did they pray that they might “perceive
and know what things they ought to do.”

Ivan’s search after a pure form of faith might have led him further had
not a bond, invisible yet most strong, held him to the Church of which
his Czar was the head. Ivan thought that if reform were really needed,
he would surely be her leader also. His soul refused, in its tender,
passionate loyalty, to pass beyond that of the man he loved. Therein
he erred. To each one of us who closely follows the Divine teaching an
hour is sure to come when, in the true spirit of Christ’s command, we
learn to call no man our father upon earth--when we can no longer take
truth upon trust, even from the dearest and most venerated of human
lips. Moreover, Ivan expected from Alexander what from his position
alone, if from no other reason, he was incapable of performing. King
Arthur could not ride forth along with his knights in quest of the Holy
Grail; the place in which God had put him, the work to which He had
called him, rendered it impossible.

                “The king must guard
  That which he rules, and is but as the hind
  To whom a space of land is given to plough,
  Who may not wander from the allotted field
  Before his work be done.”[78]

For three or four years Ivan and Clémence continued to spend the
winters in St. Petersburg, the summers for the most part at Nicolofsky.
Here their labours were amply rewarded. From year to year they observed
a satisfactory change in the condition of their people; and so great
did this appear at last that Ivan said, “I think, my Clémence, they are
almost fit for freedom now.”

“But, Ivan,” said Clémence, “I am not sure that we are fit to give it
to them now.”

“Why not, m’amie?”

“For whom would we do it, Ivan? _For Alexander, or for Christ?_”

Ivan was silent; the shaft had struck home. At length he answered, “It
is for Christ we must do it, Clémence. And he will help us.” After
another long and thoughtful pause, he added, “It is better, perhaps, to
wait until the village boys whom we have put to school have completed
their education.”

“That will take five or six years.”

“Well,” said Ivan with a smile, “before then, perhaps, all the mujiks
throughout the land may be free men, and my Czar have won the desire of
his heart! Who knows?”



CHAPTER XLI.

FROM AFAR.

  “Here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.”


One afternoon, in the spring of 1821, Clémence sat in her boudoir, a
bright, pleasant room of the palace on the Fontanka, tastefully but
not gaudily furnished. A lovely boy between three and four years old
lay on the floor playing with an ivory alphabet. He was dressed à la
mujik, his long curls of gold fell over a miniature caftan of fine blue
cloth, which a sash of crimson silk bound about his waist. A younger
child, in a white frock of some warm soft material edged with fur, sat
on his mother’s knee; and a great deal of baby chatter went on, which
was rendered still more unintelligible by being half Russian and half
French.

On the table beside Clémence lay a pile of books, with which she had
been occupying herself. They were copies of the Four Gospels in Russ;
and it was her pleasant task to write in each the name of a mujik
of Nicolofsky who had been enterprising enough to learn the art of
reading, and also to mark such passages and verses as she thought would
be particularly profitable for study. But little Feodor’s fancy for
suddenly grasping the pen in her hand had put a stop for the present to
her labours.

Some one knocked at the door; and, thinking it was the children’s
nurse, she said, “Come in,” without looking up. An attendant entered
instead, announcing a visitor--“M. de Salgues.”

In delighted amazement Clémence stood up, placed Feodor on the ground,
and hastened to welcome a guest who seemed a part of her dear native
land. “This is an unexpected pleasure, and a very great one,” she said,
warmly grasping the hand of Emile.

But Emile, with his old effrontery, saluted her on the cheek, saying,
“Permettez-moi, madame ma cousine.”

A few explanations followed. Clémence and Ivan knew already that Emile
intended to visit them; for he was about to make the tour of the
European capitals, and had, as he himself expressed it, every possible
inducement not to omit St. Petersburg. But the time of his visit having
been left uncertain, it had pleased him to surprise his friends by
travelling rapidly and directly from Paris to the city of the Czar.

“You will be glad to hear that my grandmother’s health has improved,”
he said in answer to the inquiries of Clémence. “Madame de Talmont also
is very well; and your brother is flourishing, in every sense of the
word. I have a portmanteau full of letters and packages for you. How is
Prince Ivan?”

“Well, thank you. I am sorry he is out just now; but I expect him home
in an hour or two.--My little son, ring the bell for thy mother.”

The little mujik, who had been looking at the stranger with large,
blue, wide-open eyes, instantly obeyed.

“Come here, my little man,” said Emile, stretching out his arms to him.
“What a fine boy! Ma cousine, is this your eldest?”

“My first-born is in heaven, as you know,” said Clémence in a voice low
and gentle, but not sad. “This is our eldest boy--Alexander.”

The little Alexander came willingly to Emile, and considered it quite
the proper thing to be kissed by him; for had he not just seen him
bestow a similar attention upon “Maman”?

Emile looked admiringly at the child’s handsome face, as he seated him
on his knee and gave him a bunch of seals to play with. “He is like his
father,” said he; “while his brother resembles you,” he added, glancing
at Feodor. “There is no mistaking those soft dark eyes with the long
silken lashes. What is his name, ma cousine?”

“Feodor; in memory of the noble old man who was to his father as a
father.”

Just then a servant entered; and Clémence, finding that Emile had left
his luggage at a hotel, had it sent for, and gave the other directions
hospitality required. Meanwhile, Emile carried on a conversation with
the little mujik on his knee; who, not in the least shy, put his hand
on the breast of his coat, and then tried to unbutton it, saying,
“Where is your star--the beautiful, shiny thing, all made of sparks of
fire?”

“That must be a star of diamonds,” laughed Emile. “Is that the sort of
plaything _you_ are accustomed to, my little prince?”

“That is what my godfather wears on his coat, and he gives it to me
to play with when he comes here,” said the little fellow, adding some
unintelligible semi-Russian, which quite baffled Emile.

“He has the honour to be the Emperor’s godson,” Clémence explained.

“Then, my boy, you have a splendid godfather,” said Emile.

“Et bon,”[79] the child added quickly.

At this moment the nurse appeared at the door. She was a stately
personage in full Russian costume--a velvet “sarafan,” or wide open
robe, showing beneath it a close-fitting silken gown, its long
sleeves clasped at the wrist with bands of gold, while the national
head-dress, a kind of crescent-shaped diadem called a “kakoshnik,”
added to the magnificence of her appearance. She was a person of great
importance in the establishment, and much beloved by the children, as
they showed by going to her without reluctance even from their idolized
“Maman” or “Matinka,” as they called her indifferently.

Whilst Emile was doing justice to a repast, which, although prepared
upon short notice, proved that Clémence had forgotten none of his
boyish tastes, he gave her various items of family tidings, which were
new to her, as she had not heard very recently from home.

“My grandmother has been rather fortunate,” he said. “Some mines in
which she invested a portion of her salvage from the wreck of the
family fortunes have proved a grand success. So the good soul was
desirous of purchasing an estate in the country upon which a certain
‘mauvais sujet’ of a grandson, who has given her more trouble than he
is worth, might settle down at last and ‘range himself,’ as she says.
By a singular piece of good luck, the ancestral estate of your branch
of the Talmonts happened to be in the market, its late republican
possessor having made the country too hot for himself.”

Clémence uttered an exclamation of surprise and pleasure. “Has La Tante
succeeded in obtaining it?” she asked eagerly and with sparkling eyes.

“Yes, ma cousine. And the first work undertaken by the promising young
architect, M. de Talmont, is to be the restoration of the old château.”

“Where we were born, he and I--where my mother spent the brief, bright
days of her wedded life!” said the delighted Clémence. “Mon cousin, I
rejoice to think that a place so dear to us all will be your home. You
must soon bring a fair bride to grace it,” she added with a smile.

But Emile’s brow darkened. “I have no such thoughts at present,” he
answered hastily. “Nor ever will,” he added in a lower voice.

Clémence saw that she had touched an open wound; and, to change the
conversation, began to ask about Henri.

“He goes on splendidly,” said Emile. “Some folk are born on the sunny
side of the world, like your little lad, who plays with diamonds from
his cradle.”

This tone surprised Clémence. An ordinary observer would have thought
both the past and present fortunes of Emile far more sunny than those
of his cousin. “Henri has known much trouble,” she said.

“He always gets out of his troubles on the right side,” returned Emile.
“He passed unscathed through that terrible Moscow campaign, which slew
its tens of thousands, and ruined Napoleon himself. Then he changed his
religion, and took the worst time to do it, too,--just after the return
of the Bourbons and the priests; but he only made a nine days’ wonder
for all his friends, who ended by being more attached to him than ever.
He chose a profession which every one thought beneath his birth and
his talents, and he is likely to find a career and a fortune in it.
Finally, he is affianced to a beautiful young lady, with excellent
prospects.”

“You amaze me, Emile,” said Clémence with a changing colour. “Who is
it?”

“Some one you know very well. Guess,” returned Emile, with a
cheerfulness which Clémence thought a little forced.

As she paused for a moment before replying, he continued, like one
in haste to finish the story, “I may as well tell you at once. It is
Mademoiselle de Sartines.”

“_Stéphanie!_” Clémence exclaimed. “She is only a child.”

“She is a very beautiful young lady,” said Emile with emphasis. Going
towards the window, he observed, “I am surprised to see so much snow on
the ground at this season. Does it always linger so long?”

“No; this spring is an unusually late one,” Clémence answered
mechanically, while her thoughts were busy with matters far more
interesting. An electric flash passed through her mind, linking
together scattered hints, and transient, half-suppressed allusions. The
boyish quarrels of Emile with clever little Stéphanie used to be the
amusement of the household; and that a serious attachment had sprung
out of them was not by any means improbable. A genuine compassion for
her cousin awoke within her.--And Henri? So far as he was concerned,
surprise as yet swallowed up every other feeling.

“Ah!” cried Emile with a brightening face, “here is Prince Ivan
alighting from his drosky. I will go and meet him;” and he hastened
from the room.

Emile was not demonstrative; but a warm and genuine friendship for Ivan
had a place in his heart since the day when the young Russian answered
his scoffs with generous words of counsel and expostulation. Ivan’s
advice and influence had saved him from much evil, and Ivan’s character
had unconsciously become his model of excellence.

But they had scarcely exchanged salutations when several guests came
in also to share the family dinner. It was the habit of the “grands
seigneurs” of St. Petersburg to hoist a flag over their palaces when
they intended dining at home, as a sign that their friends would
be welcome to join them; and Ivan adopted the hospitable customs
of his class, while he avoided much of its lavish and ostentatious
expenditure. His guests however departed early, as most of them were
going to a ball at Gateschina, the residence of the Empress Mother;
and after a whispered word to Clémence he said to Emile, “No doubt you
smoke, as of old? I have a smoking-room for my friends, though I am not
myself a votary of the fragrant weed. Come with me.”

Emile was soon stretched at full length on a velvet-covered divan, and
accommodated with a long amber-tipped pipe filled with the choicest
tobacco. Ivan seated himself by the fire, and the friends talked
together of many things; nor was their communion hindered by the fact
that each had a secret care in his heart. Some things were said, or
hinted, by Emile which Ivan rejoiced to hear. It soon became evident
that the man was not the scoffing sceptic the lad had been: Ivan’s
words of counsel had gone home to his heart and been the means of
keeping him from those “paths of the destroyer” into which there was
once terrible danger his feet might wander.

After many other subjects had been discussed, Emile observed, “I am
curious to know what you have been doing with the Army of Occupation,
since its return from France.”[80]

“It is difficult to know what to do with it,” Ivan admitted candidly.
“Our enormous military forces threaten to become a perplexity, now
that a European peace, which God grant may be enduring, renders them
superfluous.”

“I should think that army of yours something worse than a perplexity,”
said Emile laying aside his pipe, “at least to the Czar.” His tone was
so ominous that Ivan looked at him anxiously.

“I knew in Paris many of your countrymen, ‘Messieurs les officiers
russe’ we used to call them,” Emile resumed after a pause. “You
remember, Prince Ivan, what an ardent Imperialist I used to be; and I
think still that the exile of St. Helena would make a better ruler for
France than any effete Bourbon or Orleans of them all. I should have
plunged madly into the wildest intrigues of the secret societies of
Paris had not a decanter of poisoned wine stopped me at the beginning.”

“Poisoned wine, Emile? Oh yes--I remember.”

“But do you remember the lecture you read me with that poisoned wine
for a text?--To use assassination as a weapon against political foes
is abominable, and all those who do so are cowardly villains! The
murder of the Duc de Berri shows to what a length those knights of the
dagger and pistol are prepared to go, and ought to frighten all honest
people away from their intrigues. I am sorry to say, Prince Ivan, the
army that has come back to you from France is deeply tainted with the
spirit that has prompted such crimes. Most of your officers are members
of secret societies; and the wildest talk is rife amongst them. I have
heard it said, by one who ought to know, that it would have been better
for the Czar to drown his fine army in the Baltic than to bring it back
to his own country.”

Ivan grew visibly pale, but suppressed the emotion he felt. “The Czar
is quite aware of the existence of these secret societies; he knows,
too, that they have extended ramifications even in Russia,” he said.
“But have you any idea, Emile, from so much of their talk as may have
reached your ears, what it is that these gentlemen really want?”

“Scarcely more than they have themselves, I dare say,” Emile answered
with a rather bitter laugh. “I suppose they would tell you, if you were
admitted to their councils, that they want a constitution for Russia.”

“What kind of a constitution?”

“Oh, every one differs as to that. I have heard it said that every
Russian officer carries a constitution about in his pocket. I suppose,
for the most part, they are like those constitutions of revolutionary
France, which were excellent on paper, only they would not ‘march.’”

“And, of course, every one of these gentlemen expects the Czar to
satisfy his own particular aspirations. Suppose he fail to do it?”

“Suppose he fail to do it--” Instead of finishing his sentence, Emile
heaved a long and bitter sigh, flung the ashes out of his pipe, sat up,
and gazed sadly into the fire. Presently he resumed: “The iniquities
of Alexander are twofold. He has not, as yet, bestowed upon Russia
a perfect liberal constitution, as new and as faultless as a louis
d’or fresh from the mint; and he has used, and is using, his enormous
influence to repress in other countries the party of progress,--or of
revolution, which you will,--such as the insurgents of Spain and the
Carbonari of Italy. He even hesitates to assist the Greeks, who, by the
way, seem really to deserve assistance and compassion.”

“Ah,” cried Ivan with excitement, “there indeed the Czar’s perplexity
is great. Every true Russian longs to trample in the dust that
abominable Ottoman tyranny--cruel, cowardly, treacherous as it is--and
to deliver our suffering fellow-Christians, from whom there is going
up daily to the throne of God ‘the cry of the oppressed that have no
comforter; and on the side of their oppressors there is power, but they
have no comforter.’ Need I tell you that the first of Russians longs
for it more than any of his subjects? But hitherto it could only have
been done at the price of another European war. And even then it might
have been done in vain.”

“Why so?” asked Emile.

“Because unless the Czar had a fleet in readiness to support his army,
every Christian in Greece might be massacred before our troops could
reach Constantinople.”

“His position is a difficult one,” said Emile.

“_Difficult?_” Ivan repeated with a heavy sigh. “Would it were _only_
difficult! Sometimes it seems to me as if his way were so hedged
about that it is impossible for him to do anything at all. First look
abroad, upon the perplexed field of European politics. There his
unceasing efforts to maintain the peace of the world have already cost
him dear. While he endeavours with the one hand to repress the spirit
of lawlessness and anarchy, he is trying with the other to move the
‘powers that be’ in the direction of justice, mercy, and moderation;
and consequently he is misunderstood by both. Liberals revile him as
a friend of tyrants, a renegade from the cause of freedom; princes
accuse him of opening the flood-gates before the torrent of democracy,
and say he has none but himself to thank if his own dominions are
overwhelmed. Then look at home. _There_ is raging the conflict of
religious opinion; Photi, Seraphim, and zealots of their type, are
for ever besieging his ear with the accusation that his own hands
have undermined the Church of his country by giving his people the
Scriptures in the vulgar tongue, and the education necessary to read
them. _There_ are going forward the plots and intrigues of the active,
unscrupulous secret societies: if he tolerates these as the pardonable
follies of harmless enthusiasts, he may be as one who stands idly
watching the conflagration which will consume his own dwelling; if he
allows Aratchaief and Miloradovitch to repress them with rigour, he
will assuredly be execrated as a despot. Nor do his difficulties end
here. The corruption that has eaten like a canker into every part of
the administration of this enormous empire is the worst and sorest of
them all. We are still but half civilized. Great as are the strides we
have made, and are making, in the path of improvement, the faults of
semi-barbarism cling to us yet. In the reign of the Empress Catherine
everything was bought and sold, as too many things are even now--in
bitter shame and sorrow I say it. ‘That they may do evil with both
hands earnestly, the prince asketh, and the judge asketh for a reward;
and the great man, he uttereth his mischievous desire: so they wrap it
up.’ When these things reach the ear of the Czar, he visits them with
swift, sharp punishment; and so men begin to call stern, hard, and
suspicious the tenderest hearted man that ever walked God’s earth. Yet
he cannot stay the evil.”

“God help him!” said Emile.

“Amen,” responded Ivan. He seemed about to add something more; but with
a look of sadness very foreign to his bright young face he checked
himself, and kept silence.

“When did you see him last?” asked Emile.

“I saw him to-day,” said Ivan briefly. There the conversation ended:
Ivan shortly afterwards accompanied his friend to his apartment, bade
him a cordial good-night, and then went at once to the dressing-room,
where Clémence was awaiting him, and reading meanwhile the letters
Emile had given her.

The accounts of Stéphanie were particularly interesting to her. How the
approbation of that young lady’s guardian had ever been obtained by a
suitor who had so small a portion of this world’s goods to offer as
Henri de Talmont, was certainly a mystery. The letters only solved it
indirectly. That of Madame de Talmont was the most satisfactory. She
observed that the will of Stéphanie’s guardian was very weak, while
that of Stéphanie herself was remarkably strong. When M. de Galmar
informed her of Henri’s proposal, adding, as a matter of course, that
he would decline it for her, she was far too decorous and well-bred to
make the smallest objection; but she told him very quietly that she had
often thought of embracing a religious life, and that as her friend
Madame de Krudener was now about to found a missionary community--she
believed among the Tartars on the Danube--she wished to signify her
intention of joining it as soon as she came of age. “Your cousin is
a strange girl,” M. de Galmar observed afterwards to his daughter
Coralie. “But, after all, a Protestant is not as bad as a Tartar. Nor
is dining upon three courses, instead of twelve, quite as bad as being
dined upon oneself by cannibals in some of those savage countries. She
had better take the young architect.”

Clémence looked up from her letter with an air of amusement, which
changed into one of grave anxiety as she saw the serious face of Ivan
bending over her. She drew a chair for him near the fire, and said, “I
am longing to hear all, Ivan. Why did the Czar send for you? How did
you find him?”

Ivan answered the last question first: “Looking depressed and weary,
and his deafness more apparent than ever. I had to sit quite close to
him, and to raise my voice to make him hear. He spoke very mournfully
of the state of things in Siberia, whence the Governor-General,
Speranski, has just returned, bringing sad accounts of the prevalence
of corruption and dishonesty in the public service. For the present
the vigorous measures of Speranski have checked these evils, though at
the expense of removing the governor from every province save one. He
has sent these unfaithful governors here for their trial; and most of
them will probably be sent back to Siberia as convicts. But now his own
health has broken down, and he is obliged to quit his post. There is
need--great need--of faithful and active men to continue and carry out
the reforms he has begun.”

Here Ivan paused, took the hand of Clémence in his, and with a look
full of tenderness continued his narrative--“The Czar said to me sadly,
‘There are so few that I can trust. Will _you_ help me in this thing,
Prince Ivan Ivanovitch?’”

Clémence started, and her sweet face glowed with a sudden colour, then
grew pale again as rapidly. “_O Ivan!_” she exclaimed. “And what did
you say to him?”

“What _could_ I say? Is it amongst things possible--conceivable--that
my Czar should ask me to help him, and be refused?”

“No; nor that I should wish it. But, Ivan, this will bring a great
change into our happy life.”

“These were nearly his own words. He was very kind, he was even
tenderly considerate for me and for you, Clémence. He would not, he
said, ask from me more than a few years of my life. And for that time,
could not your mother come to you?”

“Come to _me_?” Clémence repeated a little proudly. “Does he--or do
you--suppose for one moment I would let you go to Siberia alone?”

“I don’t believe he does,” Ivan answered with a dawning smile upon his
serious face. “He added, that should you prefer accompanying me, which
indeed was what he expected, every possible comfort and luxury should
be provided for you and for the children. ‘A residence in Siberia is
not so great a hardship as many men think,’ he said. Still, Clémence, I
tremble for our children. They are so young and tender.”

“Children born in St. Petersburg are not likely to suffer much from
the severity of any climate short of that of the North Pole,” returned
Clémence cheerfully. “God has made our way plain before us, Ivan. We
cannot hesitate.”

“So I told the Czar. He would have given me time to reflect, but I
said it was needless. I knew that in this I was doing no wrong to you,
Clémence, since your heart ever beats in mine.”

“Did he say anything about the time of our departure?”

“Only that the summer is before us now, and that we must not lose it.
He spoke with much feeling of the Siberian exiles, and also of the
native tribes which are still heathen, and of the missionary work going
on amongst them. He said that where he is sending me I would find many
ways of promoting the kingdom of Christ.”

“How did you answer him?”

“Just as I should have answered _you_, Clémence;--but such words do not
bear repeating. I said something about the joy of winning souls for
Christ, and I shall never forget the sudden brightening of his sad face
as he responded--‘You are young now, but if after a long life of labour
you should only succeed in leading one sinner to Christ, you will have
reason to bless God, and to rejoice at it throughout eternity.’”[81]

There were tears in the eyes of Clémence as she said, “He is right,
dearest. We will go bravely and cheerfully, in the name of our God; for
has He not said, ‘My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee
rest’?”



CHAPTER XLII.

SNOW-DRIFTS.

  “Where the frost king breathes on the slippery sails,
    And the mariner wakes no more,
  Lift high the lamp that never fails,
    On that dark and sterile shore.”


Five years have passed away. To Ivan they have been years of toil and
conflict, and yet happy years. In the land of his exile he has laboured
earnestly to introduce order, good government, civilization, and,
above all, to sow the seeds of Christianity. A district, or “circle,”
in the north-east of Siberia, immense in extent, but sparely peopled,
has been his charge; and he has had to travel many a weary league over
snow and ice, and through dense forests of pine and larch. In order
that every portion of the wide area intrusted to his care might enjoy
the careful personal superintendence indispensable to its prosperity,
he established his head-quarters, for six months or a year at a time,
in the different settlements within his circle, and thence he made
journeys through the surrounding districts.

Clémence seconded all his efforts; and her wise and loving
ministrations made each of her temporary homes a little spot of light
amidst the darkness. In selecting the numerous retinue who accompanied
him from Europe, Ivan had endeavoured to make choice of the persons
best fitted to aid him in his philanthropic labours for the improvement
of his people. The most useful of these were the able and energetic
German, Dr. Krausekopf; and Pope Yefim, the friend of his youth, and
one of the earliest fruits of the Evangelical revival in Russia. He was
now the sole chaplain of the household, since the venerable Grandpierre
had gone to his rest, and Clémence did not desire a successor of the
Roman Catholic faith. Ivan found him a zealous and devoted helper,
especially in missionary work.

Meanwhile the cheerful prophecies of Clémence about the children had
been amply fulfilled. They grew in strength and beauty as well and as
quickly as they could have done beneath the beams of a southern sun.
Alexander and Feodor had now a little fair-haired brother Henri to play
with and take care of, and, to their great delight, a baby sister also
to admire and caress. She had recently been baptized by the name of
Victoire, because, as Clémence said, “the eldest daughter of the House
of Talmont used always to be called Victoire.”

A winter of very unusual severity, which surprised Ivan and his
household in one of the most northerly settlements of his circle,
for the first time since he left Europe cut him off completely for
some months from the world of civilization. Towards the end of
January violent snow-storms set in, continuing for weeks with little
intermission, and rendering impassable the poor apologies for roads
which were all that he as yet had been able to construct. So the great
fast before Easter found him still sending out fatigue parties to clear
the paths, and watching anxiously for the first adventurous sledger who
should make his way across the fields of ice and snow with despatches
from Tobolsk.

Easter eve came at last; and still isolation and solitude reigned at
Novoi Nicolofsky,--as Ivan, in memory of his early home, had named this
settlement, of which he was the founder. The short day had closed;
and Ivan, robed in furs from head to foot, came in from his manifold
labours to enjoy a quiet half-hour with Clémence. He was now about
two-and-thirty, and looked even older; for thought and toil and the
habit of command had set their seal upon his broad, open forehead. Yet
he had lost nothing of his frank, cheerful air; and when he flung off
his furs, and seated himself at the fire by the side of Clémence, they
looked as handsome and as happy a couple as could have been found in
any land or clime.

With a smile of welcome Clémence laid aside her work--a little pair
of reindeer-skin moccasins. “I am glad you have come so early, Ivan,”
she said. “We can have a few minutes’ quiet talk before we go down to
the church to listen to the reading. How pleasant it is to keep, here
in the far north, our dear Russian custom of the Easter evening Bible
reading!”

“Yes; our little church is crowded to-night. I have just been looking
in. Vanka the huntsman was reading the story of our Lord’s Passion
according to St. John, and I saw many a tearful face and heard many a
sob in the stillness. I meant to have read for them myself, but I would
not disturb him. I can read by-and-by, when we go there together.”

“What a beautiful custom it is, this reading of God’s Word for his
brethren by any poor man who is able to do it!” said Clémence. “Where
is Pope Yefim?”

“In his own room, I believe. You know that on Easter eve our priests
usually leave the churches to the people.”

“The poor lads who are out on duty miss something.”

“True; but they will have their turn by-and-by. We all must miss
something,” he added, smiling. “But then we all have our compensations.”

“I think the want of tidings from our dear ones is our only _real_
trial,” Clémence answered. “I sometimes long to see my mother’s face,
Ivan, and to show her our darlings. What a happy little visit that was
which she paid us in St. Petersburg before we left! But for that I
should have felt the long separation far more.”

“It was very good of her to come such a distance on such short notice;
and it sent us on our way with lightened hearts. And does not the
thought that Henri is at Tobolsk help to break the sense of separation?”

“Really it does: compared with Paris, or even with St. Petersburg,
Tobolsk seems close at hand.”

“How well he is getting on there, too,” said Ivan. “In a year or two,
God willing, he may settle near us in Moscow or in St. Petersburg; and
our dear mother can then divide her time between her son and daughter.”

“What a happy dream!” said Clémence. “And yet _not_ a dream, but a
sober, practicable plan, a hope that may soon be realized. How good God
is to us, Ivan!”

A handsome boy of eight or nine bounded into the room, his fair hair
streaming over his fur jacket, and his bright face glowing with
exercise and excitement. “Softly--softly, my boy,” said his father.

“Papinka, they are coming!--they are coming!” he shouted, confident
that the importance of his tidings justified any amount of haste and
clamour in their delivery.

“Who are coming, my dear boy?”

“Sledges, papinka, sledges! Three of them!” he cried breathlessly.
“From the south!”

“Do not let us be too sure,” Ivan said quickly to Clémence. “They may
be only, after all, from some neighbouring settlement.”

“They are from the south, papinka,” the boy repeated. “They have
signal-flags. Matvei saw them in the moonlight, quite plainly.”

“_I_ must see them too,” said Ivan, hastily putting on his furs again.

It was true. Their long isolation was over. Tidings and letters and
friends from the outer world had reached them at last. Much more
and better--Clémence sprang forward with a cry of joy as a rough,
sealskin-coated figure entered the room.

“Is it thou,--is it really _thou_, Henri?” she asked between smiles and
tears.

“Yes, my own sweet sister, it is I,” said Henri de Talmont. “My work in
Tobolsk is finished, so I have come to visit you.”



CHAPTER XLIII.

HIS KING SPEAKS TO THE CZAR ONCE MORE.

  “The King hath laid his hand
    On the watcher’s head,
  Till the heart that was so worn and sad
    Is quiet and comforted.”


Although the fast of Easter eve is the strictest known in the Greek
Church, yet on this occasion willing hands quickly prepared a meal for
the travellers, since, as Pope Yefim observed, “Mercy is better than
sacrifice.” Whilst Ivan’s retainers took care of the companions of
Henri, he himself was waited upon like a prince by Clémence and Ivan
in person, with the assistance of Pope Yefim and little Alexander.
In reply to their eager inquiries, he told them the incidents of his
journey, which had not been without its dangers and vicissitudes. But,
through all that he said, Clémence thought she perceived the shadow of
some great sorrow. Her foreboding heart turned at once to what was to
both of them equally and intensely dear. Three times she tried to shape
the inquiry, “Henri, how is our mother?” and three times the words died
upon her lips. But at last she summoned courage to ask the question.

His answer relieved her at once: “Never better, thank God. Such at
least is her own report. I bring you letters from her, which she
enclosed to me.”

Then her anxious thoughts turned to his betrothed, the bright,
brave-hearted Stéphanie; but she shrank from uttering her name, lest
haply it might have become, for him, the saddest sound upon earth.
Ivan, however, had no such misgivings, and approached the subject
gaily. “Remember, mon ami,” he said, “we are all impatience to hear of
la fiancée, la belle Stéphanie.”

“I wish you could _see_ her,” answered Henri brightening. “I do not
think any one could deny _now_ that she is surpassingly beautiful--and
good. She finds all her recreation, all her delight in works of love
and mercy. Wherever she goes, her energy and vivacity open the doors
wide before her. And then her sound practical sense and loving spirit
make her more than welcome.”

“I knew it would be so,” said Clémence. “I knew my little friend
Stéphanie would grow into a noble woman.”

“You are a fortunate man, Henri,” Ivan added. “How happy we shall be
together when you bring your bride and settle amongst us! You must
always spend your summers at Nicolofsky. But now it is _my_ turn,” he
said lightly, as he rose and stood beside him, laying his hand on his
shoulder. “You must tell me the last tidings of my Czar. I am thirsting
to hear of him, and not once have you named him yet.”

Henri paused a moment; then he said, in a low, quiet voice, “He is
well--_very_.”

Clémence looked up surprised, but Ivan observed nothing. “Tell me
more,” he went on eagerly. “Where was he when you heard last? What has
he been doing?--There is one thing I long, yet scarcely hope, to hear.
Has he won the desire of his heart? Are the serfs free yet?”

“The serfs are _not_ free;--but, dear Ivan, your Czar _has_ won the
desire of his heart.”

Now first his tone arrested Ivan, who looked at him amazed. “How?” he
faltered, with a face growing rapidly white.

“Be calm, dear friend. Alexander has but exchanged the crown of Russia
for one more glorious.”

At that moment little Alexander rushed in weeping. “Father, mother,” he
sobbed, “they are all saying the Czar is dead--the dear, good Czar, my
godfather. Father, is it true?”

Ivan did not answer. No word passed his lips, no cry; he only tottered
and sank as one struck by a fatal bullet. From Clémence just then his
white death-like face shut out all sorrows, all losses far away.

But the strong man wrestled with his agony and overcame. After a
few terrible moments, during which life changed its aspect to Ivan
Pojarsky, he regained a measure of outward calmness.

“Tell me all you know, Henri,” he said at last,--“_all_, from the
beginning.”

The sorrow-stricken group drew close together. Clémence had placed her
hand in that of her husband, and was watching him with anxious eyes.
The weeping child stood beside his father’s knee; and the aged priest
covered his face to hide the emotion he could not restrain.

“I have one fear, too dreadful to utter,” said Ivan with pale lips.
“Can you guess, and remove it, Henri?”

“I can. No hand touched him, except the hand of God. It will be written
in history that the Emperor Alexander died of fever, at Taganrog in the
Crimea.”

“Will it not be true?” asked Clémence.

“Not all the truth. Before the fiery shaft of the fever smote him he
was already stricken, I think to death.”

“Ever fearless, he was wont to brave the danger of infection as readily
as other dangers,” Pope Yefim said.

“My life witnesses to that,” returned Henri, almost losing his
self-control. After a pause he resumed: “Before I left Tobolsk, I met
an Englishman who had seen his physician, Dr. Wylie, and heard from
his lips a full account of every particular. He told me all. And this,
indeed, is what has brought me here.”

“It was so good of you to come,” said Clémence tearfully.

“He was looking ill when we parted,” Ivan said. “Ill and worn. But
he was so strong, and only forty-three. I never dreamed of death for
him--never once.”

Henri answered sadly: “During the years that passed since then,
those who loved him have thought of it often--have sometimes almost
_wished_”--but his voice failed; to end _that_ sentence was beyond
his power. After a pause he resumed: “Repeated attacks of erysipelas
wore out his strength,--especially one, desperately severe, two
years before the end. He never fully recovered from its effects. His
nerves were shattered; sleep forsook him; he could not bear light
or noise, even the taper which burned all day on his table to seal
his never-ending despatches, had to be carefully shaded. Still he
toiled on, rising sometimes as early as half-past three, and allowing
himself no time for rest, except such as he could snatch in his rapid
journeys, often over rough roads and in bad vehicles. One who had a
post in his household,[82] said to my English friend, ‘After two or
three days passed in a carriage the uncrowned traveller gives himself
up to rest and refreshment, but the Emperor relaxes himself from one
fatigue by another. A regiment is reviewed, government officials
received, military colonies visited, an establishment created, plans
examined, and so forth. Sleep and food have great trouble to glide
into the leisure of so busy a life.’ Yet, after all, it is not toil
which usually strikes at the roots of a strong man’s life. Nor is
bodily suffering the hardest thing to endure. ‘The spirit of a man will
sustain his infirmity, but a wounded spirit who can bear?’ Again to
use words other than my own, and all too sadly true, ‘He saw his noble
desires abandoned to ridicule, and those to whom he devoted himself
rewarded him with ingratitude; until at last the silent but unceasing
struggle he had to maintain against those who pretended to second him
only to paralyze his action, and to enter into his views only that they
might the better betray them, filled his days with bitterness, and
eventually shortened their course.’”[83]

“Ah!” said Ivan with a shuddering sigh that was more than half a groan
of pain.

“The shadows fell ever dark and darker over that grand, silent,
solitary life--how dark those who stood outside could only guess,”
Henri went on. “He bore his burden alone. Now and then a few sad words
falling from his lips almost unawares, or perhaps a look, showed what
was passing within. Once a valued friend, a lady, asked of him a
favour which in justice to others he could not grant. He couched his
refusal, as he was wont to do, in terms so gentle that she was greatly
touched; and when they parted she expressed her earnest wishes for his
happiness. At the word ‘happiness’ a change passed over his face, and
he turned away with a sorrowful gesture. In one of his rapid journeys,
his favourite aide-de-camp, Volkonski, was his companion. The road was
bad; and in ascending a steep hill the carriage stopped, the horses
being unable to draw it. Instead of awakening Volkonski, who had fallen
asleep, the Emperor himself got out and gave the coachman the necessary
assistance, helping to push the carriage up the hill. As he resumed
his place, Volkonski awoke. ‘Ah, sire, why did you not call me?’ he
said. ‘It is all right,’ returned the Czar. ‘You were asleep, and sleep
is too precious to be disturbed,’--adding in a lower tone, as if to
himself, ‘It brings forgetfulness.’”

“How like him!” said Clémence.

“Too sadly like him,” resumed Henri. “It was all Alexander--the
unselfishness, the profound melancholy, the reserve that only betrayed
it unconsciously in taking thought for another. But I suppose the most
direct disclosure he ever made was in a few words spoken to an old and
intimate friend who asked about his health. ‘In body, I am well,’ he
answered; ‘but in mind I suffer always, and my suffering is the greater
because I cannot speak of it.’”

There was a pause. Clémence bent down over the fair head of her little
son to hide the tears which were dropping slowly. “My child had better
go to his rest,” she said.

The child’s eager face was upturned, and the request to stay was on his
trembling lips, when Ivan interposed. “No,” he said. “Let him hear all,
Clémence. He has the right.--But, Henri, was there no one near to ask
whence all this anguish and sorrow of heart?”

“Some at least of its hidden sources were not hard to guess. Had he
not tasted all the bitterness of failure--worse a thousand times than
the bitterness of death? Which of all the plans, the hopes that his
soul hung upon, had found its fulfilment? Which had not disappointed
him? The Holy Alliance had become the tool of selfish politicians,
perhaps even the instrument of tyrants. The dissemination of the Holy
Scriptures, from which he hoped so much, had proved, _apparently_, a
cause of discord and confusion; his people, so loved and toiled for,
had ‘shown themselves insensible to the benefits he sought to confer
upon them;’ and secret societies and plots for his assassination had
answered his unceasing efforts to do them good. Well might he say, with
one of old, ‘I have laboured in vain; I have spent my strength for
nought and in vain.’ And with another, ‘Now, O Lord, take away my life;
for I am not better than my fathers.’”

“But oh, Henri,” asked Clémence, struggling with her tears, “did he
not know, all through, in whom he had believed? Did not Christ, in the
darkest hour, stand beside his suffering servant?”

Henri’s face grew sadder still. “Clémence--Ivan, must I tell you all I
_think_?” he asked.

“All,” said Ivan. “Keep nothing back.”

“Then I think the face of his Lord was hid from him. Wherefore I
cannot tell. There are secrets in His dealings with His own with which
a stranger may not intermeddle.”

“The evil one has fearful power,” Pope Yefim said. “How would the great
adversary, the accuser of the brethren, assault such a noble foe, and
wound and harass, since he knew he could not destroy him!”

“There is no doubt he used for the purpose,” Henri continued, “that
strain of hereditary melancholy which flows through the life-current
of his race, and which might--might have--God dealt tenderly with
him, after all, though it is hard to see it now.” After a long pause
he resumed: “Even when he walked in darkness and had no light he
ceased not to trust in the Lord, and to stay himself upon his God.
In the darkest hours his word was his comfort; and those who feared
his name, however poor or lowly, were the men he delighted to honour.
You remember doubtless, before you left St. Petersburg, the visit of
those noble-hearted philanthropists, Grellet and Allen; and you may
have heard of their interview with the Emperor;--how the three, the
great monarch and the two obscure travellers, knelt side by side, and
poured out their full hearts to God, feeling themselves truly one in
that love of Christ which passeth knowledge. Allen saw him once more,
at Verona, when the shadows of the grave had already begun to deepen
over him. Finding him weary and oppressed with work, the Englishman
spoke of mental prayer, and said that even in the midst of engrossing
occupations a man might lift up his heart to God. ‘It is my constant
practice, and I know not what I should do without it,’ was Alexander’s
answer. To an appeal made to him by the same friend on behalf of the
suffering and indigent Waldenses, he responded with a prompt and
sympathetic munificence which evidently had its root in the sense that
they were his brethren in Christ Jesus.

“The last year of his life was marked by peculiar sorrows. A terrible
inundation of the Neva destroyed a great part of St. Petersburg,
and brought death and desolation to thousands of families. While the
inundation continued, he spared no effort to rescue the perishing;
and for weeks afterwards he went every day to the homes of those who
had lost their relatives, relieving their necessities, and speaking
words of hope and comfort about the ‘city which cannot be moved.’
Then another and a deeper sorrow came to him--but of that I will not
speak.”[84]

Here the child’s clear voice broke in. “Oh, father,” he asked
wondering, “why did not God comfort him?”

Ivan could not answer, nor could he meet the searching gaze of the
boy’s young eyes. In broken-hearted silence he turned away. But
Henri put his arm around the child and drew him close to him. “God
_did_ comfort him, at last,” he said. “The way was rough, rough and
long, but the end was peace.--That journey to the south, from which
he returned no more, was undertaken partly for the benefit of the
Empress Elizabeth, whose health for some time had been failing. Her
physicians had recommended her to pass the winter in Germany, but she
entreated them not to separate her from her husband; and, to avoid
this separation, he fixed upon a residence for her at Taganrog, in
the Crimea, the climate being accounted favourable, resolving to make
it his own headquarters for the season. There they spent a few quiet,
restful weeks together. Elizabeth wrote to her own family that she
had never been so happy in all her life. She drove and walked with
the Emperor, who watched over her with all the care and tenderness of
which he was so capable. Whenever he walked alone, he visited the poor
in their humble homes; and many a touching memory of his kindness will
linger long on their lips and in their hearts.[85]

“But that peaceful breathing space had an end too soon. During a
toilsome journey through the Crimea, filled with the usual details of
business, the deadly fever and ague smote his frame; while, just at
the same time, tidings no less deadly reached his heart. The vaguely
treasonable projects of the secret societies had ended in a desperate
and deliberate plot, of which his own assassination was a leading
feature.”

“_His_ assassination!” cried Ivan. “Impossible! They could _never_ have
done it.”

“So it seemed,” Henri answered. “For the deed was often purposed, never
once attempted. Still the shaft struck home. Many of those who plotted
to take his life owed all that made their own precious to his bounty;
every one of them had received favours at his hands. ‘But what could
I expect? It is a just retribution,’ he cried, unconscious in his
deafness that he spoke aloud. ‘Almighty God, let thy judgments fall on
me alone, and not on my people!’”

“A just retribution?” Clémence repeated. “How was it possible to him,
even for a moment, to imagine _that_?”

“It could only have been possible to shattered nerves and a mind
unstrung by suffering. The remembrance of the dark tragedy that began
his reign--the thought of his father’s horrible fate, perhaps soon
to be his own--came back upon him in the hours of pain and weakness.
Moreover, a stem duty was laid upon him. Before treason such as had
been now disclosed to him no monarch on earth could remain passive. The
ruler ‘beareth not the sword in vain.’ But to Alexander it was easier
to suffer than to strike.

“So he returned to Taganrog with fever in his veins and the bitterness
of death in his heart. For some days he struggled on, refusing to yield
to his ever increasing malady, and rejecting the severe remedies his
physicians pressed upon him. They thought he wished to die; and so it
may have been, still I am persuaded he would not have thrust the cup of
life aside by any act of his own. He really believed their treatment
mistaken. ‘My malady is beyond your skill,’ he said to them; and again
to Wylie, ‘Ah, my friend, I think you are deceived as to the nature
of my illness; it is my nerves that need a cure.’ Wylie bore witness
afterwards that throughout those days, so sad for the watchers, and to
the very end, he ‘continued to rest upon Christ as his only hope. His
greatest pleasure was to have the Scriptures read to him; and he often
requested his attendants to leave him alone, doubtless that he might
hold communion with God in prayer.’[86]

“One loving, tireless watcher scarcely quitted him night or day. New
strength seemed poured upon the feeble frame and timid spirit of the
gentle Elizabeth. Rising almost from her own bed of sickness to watch
beside his, yet she never failed, never faltered; even in the most
terrible hours of agony no entreaties could win her from his side. And
strength was given her to the end. His last word, his last look was for
her. She had her reward.”

“Thank God!” murmured Clémence--“thank God!”

“When at last Wylie told him his danger,--‘Then you really believe I
am dying?’ he said, looking him earnestly in the face. Wylie assented.
‘The best news I have heard for many years,’ returned he, pressing
Wylie’s hand. The Archimandrite Fedotof was summoned to act as his
confessor. Their interview was very brief; but the priest said that ‘he
had never seen more Christian humility, or a dying man more thoroughly
prepared.’ Afterwards, with Elizabeth, he partook for the last time of
the memorials of his Saviour’s love. No doubt Christ drew very near
him then; for a look of exceeding peace and rest came over his worn,
suffering face, and he said to Elizabeth that he had never been so
happy in all his life. Summoning the physicians again, he gently told
them to do what they pleased, he would no longer object to anything.
But their treatment, if ever it would have availed, was worse than
useless now. Increased suffering and violent delirium were the result.
Still there were intervals of consciousness, in which he thanked those
around him for their services, spoke to Elizabeth with the warmest
gratitude and affection, and earnestly commended her to the care of his
friend Volkonski, entreating him not to leave her until he had brought
her to his mother at St. Petersburg.

“Calm returned at length. It was early in the morning. He opened his
eyes, fixed them with full recognition on the face of Elizabeth; took
her hand, pressed it to his lips and his heart; and then greeted
Volkonski, who stood beside him, with a smile. Overjoyed at the
recognition, the faithful servant bent down over the hand of his
beloved master and tried to kiss it; but Alexander had long ago
forbidden him this act of homage as too ceremonious for so dear a
friend, and now he drew his hand away with a slight, loving gesture
of reproach. The curtains had been pushed aside from a window near
the sofa where he lay, and the morning sun was streaming brightly in.
‘Ah, le beau jour!’ he murmured with a look of pleasure. Then looking
anxiously and tenderly at Elizabeth, ‘Que vous devez être fatiguée!’ he
said. They were his last words, although for another day and night of
weakness and suffering life lingered on. The following morning he again
knew those around him, pressed once more the hand of Elizabeth, looked
at her with expressive eyes full of affection, and tried to speak--but
in vain. Then, at last, Christ took his weary servant home.--So you
see, my child,” said Henri to the little Alexander as he drew him
closer still, “God comforted him.”

There was a long silence. The aged priest and the little child were
weeping bitterly, and the quiet tears of Clémence were falling. She was
the first to speak. “And Elizabeth?” she asked softly.

“Elizabeth closed his eyes, knelt down beside him, and in a few
words of prayer gave him up to God. Then she added to a letter she
had already begun to the Empress Mother, ‘Our angel is gone from us
into heaven. My only comfort is that I shall not long survive him. I
hope soon to be reunited to him.’ And I think her hope will not be
disappointed.”[87]

Another silence, then Ivan rose slowly, as if to leave the room. “Stay,
dear Ivan,” Henri said. “I think it will comfort you to know with what
a passion of grief he is lamented.”

“Scarcely,” Ivan answered in a trembling voice. “In this world love and
understanding always come too late.”

“The long journey from Taganrog to St. Petersburg was made amidst the
tears of a sorrowing people, who paid the precious dust every tribute
of love and reverence their grateful hearts could devise,” said Henri.
“The honours the living would never accept were heaped upon the dead.
In many places the crowds drew the funeral carriage themselves,
forgetting how he who lay there used to say he ‘could never endure to
see men doing the work of beasts of burden.’ The faithful heart of Ilya
was well-nigh broken, because, on account of his original rank, which
was that of a mujik, he who had driven his lord for eight-and-twenty
years would not be permitted to drive him now. Nothing could separate
him from the hearse; by day he walked beside it, at night he slept
beneath it, wrapped in furs. But when he came to the capital the
Grand-Duke Nicholas allowed him once more to take the reins.

“In St. Petersburg, his own bright city of the Neva, the sorrow is
profound and universal. There is scarcely a family, from the highest
to the lowest, of which he has not been personally the benefactor. The
first three days after the tidings came seemed like the three days’
darkness of Egypt. A deep, silent gloom brooded over all. To some true
hearts that loved him the grief has proved too heavy to be borne. One
such I know of--a merchant of retired habits, noted for his munificent
charities. He heard the tidings when walking on the Neva Prospekt,
reached his home with difficulty, uttered no words but these, ‘The
Emperor is dead,’ and expired in the midst of his family.[88] Nor is it
in St. Petersburg alone that he is missed and mourned. There is weeping
in the vine-clad valleys of France as well as on the frozen plains of
Russia.[89] Wherever his armies trod he has left behind him a track of
blessing.

“Of funeral pomp and splendour, of the outward, visible signs of
a great nation’s pride and sorrow, I have no heart to speak. The
priceless jewels of the seven crowns of Russia which were laid upon his
bier could be scarcely less to the senseless dust than they had been to
the living man.”

“What need of them?” Pope Yefim said. “Now he wears the crown of
glory that fadeth not away, he walks amidst the splendours of the New
Jerusalem, with its streets of gold and gates of pearl, its walls of
jasper and foundation-stones of living fire.”

“He sees the face of Christ,” Henri answered; “for it is written, ‘His
servants shall serve him; they shall see his face, and his name shall
be in their foreheads.’”



CHAPTER XLIV.

“CHRISTOHS VOSKRESS.”

            “God’s Spirit sweet,
            Quench Thou the heat
  Of our passionate hearts when they rave and beat;
            Quiet their swell,
            And gently tell
  That His right hand doeth all things well.”


Ivan “entered into his closet, and shut his door;” not to hold
communion with his Father in heaven, but to wrestle in solitude and
silence with the anguish of his soul. Never before had a sorrow touched
the roots of his nature, the very ground and core of his being. He was
stricken to the heart, but he was not stunned by the blow. He had been
able to hear and to comprehend every detail; and now--far from telling
himself, as men often do in the first strangeness of a sudden grief,
that this thing was not, _could not_ be, true--he felt as if he had
known it for years, as if it had already become part of his life. “The
Czar Alexander Paulovitch is dead,” said Ivan--“dead in the very prime
of his days, in the very zenith of his power and glory.”

From the first hour he knew him, the soul of Ivan clave to that of
his Czar. His love for him was a passion of loyalty and hero-worship,
blended with deepest personal affection and gratitude. And now it
seemed to him that the world, from which that grand presence had
departed, was henceforward a dull, cold, sunless world; where, indeed,
there might be much to do and much to suffer, but which could never
more be kindled by the light of morning, by the glamour of romance. All
was changed, and changed for ever.

He laid before him on the table two memorials of the past which he
always wore--the Moscow medal, and the golden coin Alexander’s hand
had given him long ago by the Oka. The medal he looked at with a sigh
and put down quietly, the coin he pressed once and again to his lips.
Clearly, as though it were but yesterday, he saw the noble form of “his
boyar”--the stately head, the young face, so full of manly beauty and
deep concern--bending compassionately over the mujik’s prostrate form.
Then, unawares, the vision changed. The low, distant chant of sweet
voices in the chapel, performing the midnight Easter service, fell upon
his ear, and turned aside the current of his thoughts, though it could
not break the isolation of his sorrow. Instead of the banks of the Oka
he saw the vine-clad plains of France, and heard the thrilling harmony,
almost awful in its solemn majesty, of that thanksgiving service in
the Plaine des Vertus. In what joy and glory had his Czar walked that
day--so grand and peerless amongst men--so full of lowly, reverent
gladness before his Saviour and his God!

A flood of bitter pain swept over him. “O God!” he cried, “why didst
thou not take him thus to thyself?” If a heroic, triumphant death had
stopped him in the midst of his career of victory, Ivan almost felt as
though he could have borne the blow. Or if God had made him to prosper
in all he put his hand to, had given him to see the glad fruition of
all his hopes and dreams, and then gently taken him, full of years
and honours, from an earthly to a heavenly crown, Ivan could have
comprehended his ways with his servant; he could have said, “Thy will
be done.”

He did _not_ say it now. His soul rose up in rebellion, and from its
seething depths there came the bitter cry, “Was this thy word unto thy
servant, upon which thou didst cause him to hope, ‘I will be with him
in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. With long life will I
satisfy him, and shew him my salvation’?”--_Was_ he satisfied? What
had he gained? Failure, disappointment, sorrow marked every step of
his way. Almost had he fainted utterly; almost had his feet stumbled
on the dark mountains, while he looked for light, and behold, darkness
and the shadow of death. Until at last, worn out and weary, “with
shattered nerves and sinews all unstrung,” and with heart broken by
the ingratitude of those he loved and trusted, he “laid himself down
in the grave and slept the sleep of death.” “Could any death have been
more sad?” cried Ivan in his agony. “Rather would it have seemed a
fitting end for a life spent in the service of self and sin, than for
one which was laid as an offering at the feet of Christ.” Numb, blank
despair stole over his heart, and a low half-broken moan arose from his
lips--“No use in conflict, no hope of victory! The noblest, brightest
lives only end in the worst bitterness of failure. God is great and
good, and there is his heaven still to look for; but all things here
below are a dark sad mystery. This world belongs to the powers of evil,
and they prevail.”

Fast bound in the trance of his sorrow, he did not see the red
light of the northern morning steal slowly in. Nor did he hear an
approaching footstep, nor a gentle knock at the door; which, however,
was not fastened on the inside, so Clémence opened it softly, and came
towards him. Bending down, she pressed upon his white lips the Easter
salutation, saying, “Christohs voskress” (Christ is risen).

“Voyst venno voskress” (He is risen indeed), Ivan answered
mechanically, after the beautiful custom of the Eastern Church.

“My husband,” she said softly, laying her hand on his arm, “dost thou
believe it?”

He looked up: her face too was pale, and bore the traces of many tears.
“I _know_ it to be true,” he said.

“Do you believe it, my Ivan? Do you believe, in your heart of hearts,
that Christ has burst the bonds of death, not for himself alone, but
for all whom we love?”

“Yes; I believe in the resurrection of the just,” said Ivan with
trembling lips.

“Then why sorrow for our Czar as those that have no hope?”

“Do not speak to me, Clémence. I cannot bear it yet. My heart is
breaking. Not so much because God has taken him from us, as because of
all the darkness--all the seeming failure.”

A still, calm smile passed over the quiet face of Clémence, kindling
it with a radiance more than that of the morning. Ivan looked at her
wondering. “What is it?” he asked, taking her hand and drawing her to a
seat beside him.

“_Christ is risen_,” she said again. “That word folds up within it all
comfort, Ivan.”

“I see no comfort now.”

“You will see it soon, dearest. You will see that His resurrection from
the dead--the ending of his bitter agony in endless joy--means the
resurrection of all our hopes; and assures us for evermore that life,
not death, joy not sorrow, fruition not failure, is his purpose for all
who trust him.”

“But how bitter the way!”

“Who thinks of the way when the end is won? Was the Master’s own way
an easy one, Ivan? Yet it is said, ‘He shall see of the travail of his
soul, and shall be satisfied.’ And as the Master, so the servant.”

“_Satisfied?_” Ivan repeated. “With what? Surely not with the results
of his own work. I thought God meant him to do such great things,
Clémence! Almost to bring in the earthly reign of righteousness and
peace. And I believe he thought so too himself. It was the deepest
longing of his heart. It was what he tried to do--tried and failed.”

“Do you remember, Ivan, the day our little Alexander tried so hard to
make a bow--‘a real bow to shoot with,’ as he called it? He failed in
every effort, until at last he grew discouraged, and cried bitterly,
refusing to be comforted. Then _you_ came, took the wood and the knife
from his hand, and made the bow. I shall never forget his bright glad
face as he stood beside you, watching while you worked. He was so proud
of your strength and skill, and your success in doing what he could
not do; and when the bow was finished, he bore it off triumphantly, to
show every one in the settlement how well his father made it for him.
Ivan, our child’s trust and joy have been a parable for me to-night. I
seem to see him for whom our Easter festival is turned into mourning,
standing thus by the side of Christ, in full, restful, glad content.
What matter if the work dropped unfinished from his own hand? He no
longer heeds it now. It is _Christ’s_ work he is watching. He sees Him
preparing the true reign of peace and righteousness, the grand, final
victory of right over wrong, good over evil. He is satisfied.”

Ivan’s sad face brightened a little. “You bring me comfort, Clémence,”
he said. “I begin to see that even failures--”

“_If_ failures after all they were, which I doubt,” Clémence
interrupted. “Perhaps the seeds he has been sowing will spring up in
flower and fruit when not we alone, but our children too, have gone to
join him in the resting-place within the veil. Indeed I think no real
failure possible to the child of God, except failure in trusting him.”

“And there he did _not_ fail,” Ivan said. After a pause he added, “Yes,
there he won the victory;--and yet Christ’s victory is more to him than
his own.”

“As _his_ glory was ever more to thee than thine, Ivan.”

A patter of little feet and a sound of childish voices broke in upon
their quiet talk. There was a loud shrill burst of laughter from the
baby lips of Henri, checked by low words from Alexander. “Hush! we
must not laugh loud--not _this_ morning.” Then the half-closed door
was pushed open, and at once three little voices spoke the Easter
greeting--“Christohs voskress.” Who should be the first to claim
Papinka’s Easter kiss? Alexander hung back, and putting his arm round
Feodor, held him back also, that sunny-haired little Henri might spring
triumphantly to his father’s arms, never doubting that his own active
limbs had won the race for him.

“Voyst venno voskress,” said Ivan, as he fondly kissed, first the baby
brother, then the two elder boys. There was magic in the touch of those
little lips to soothe the heavy sorrow at his heart. But something in
the thoughtful face of Alexander made him draw the boy close to him.
“My child has been weeping this Easter morning,” he said.

For a moment the child did not speak. Then he said falteringly, “I
meant to serve the Czar, my godfather, when I grew to be a man.”

“Serve instead _his_ King, whom he loved,” answered Ivan. “And take
this thought with thee to keep all thy life, ‘The Lord is _good_ to the
soul that seeketh him.’”

“Yes, father,” the boy whispered, winding his arm about his father’s
neck. “Yes, he is good; for he comforted him at last.”

“He did, my child. However dark his ways with his own may seem to be,
yet are they all mercy and truth--_all_--when we see them from the end
to the beginning. ‘Though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion.’
He will make the heart of his own to rejoice, and that joy no man
taketh from them.”

“Papinka, are these our Easter gifts?” asked Feodor, laying his rash
little fingers on the silver medal and the golden coin so temptingly
near him on the table.

“Nay, my boy; these are too precious for thy father to give away even
to his dear little son. When he is laid in the grave, these shall be
laid there with him. But to-day, my children, we will not talk of the
grave, but of Him who came back from it, and opened our way to the
happy home beyond.”

So the current of those lives flowed on;--little lives of children,
like bright, glad mountain rills, laughing as they tripped along;
larger lives of thoughtful men and women, moving towards the sea in
ever broadening channels, and bearing precious freights. Sorrow might
come to them, but not despair; conflict, but not defeat. Life to
them was “a cordial Yes, and not a dreary No,” for the same reason
which makes it worth while for each one of us to live and work
to-day--because “Christohs voskress,” Christ is risen indeed.


THE END.



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FOOTNOTES:


[1] Nobleman.

[2] Foreigners.

[3] Get out!--Go out from my presence in disgrace.

[4] “Lord, have mercy upon me.”

[5] A light, sour beverage, made by pouring water upon flour or meal.

[6] Brandy.

[7] Of course this would not be done now. But the scene is given
exactly as it occurred.

[8] Alexander’s part in the adventure told above is historically true,
even to the smallest particular. The only liberty taken has been that
of transferring the scene from the bank of the Wilia to that of the
Oka. The story became known in England through a private letter, and
the Royal Humane Society sent the Czar a medal--rather a singular
“decoration” for a monarch. He “accepted it with a noble and modest
simplicity,” and profited by the circumstance to introduce a similar
society into his own dominions. For the description of his personal
appearance one contemporary authority amongst many may be cited:
“Malgré la régularité et la délicatesse de ses traits, l’éclat, la
fraîcheur de ses teints, sa beauté frappait moins à la première vue
que cet air de bienveillance qui lui captivait tout les cœurs, et
du premier mouvement inspirait la confiance.... Il avait l’œil vif,
spirituel, et couleur d’un ciel sans nuages; sa vue était un peu
courte, mais il possédait le sourire des yeux, si l’on peut appeler
ainsi l’expression de son regard bienveillant et doux.... Son front
chauve, mais qui donnait à l’ensemble de sa figure quelque chose
d’ouvert et de serein, ses cheveux d’un blond doré, arrangés avec soin
comme dans les belles têtes des camées ou des médailles antiques,
semblaient faits pour recevoir la triple couronne de laurier, de myrte,
et d’olivier.”

[9] A kind of cold soup made of kvass, with small pieces of meat in it.

[10] This fable was extensively believed in Russia, and not exclusively
by the lower classes.

[11] It is, perhaps, scarcely probable that a man of the character
and position of Petrovitch, an “old Muscovite” and a _protégé_ of
Rostopchine, would have appreciated these liberal measures. But
Petrovitch is supposed to be unusually thoughtful and enlightened. Upon
other points, especially upon the French war, he is made to share the
usual sentiments of his class.

[12] Readers of Mr. Browning’s “Dramatic Idylls” will remember “Ivan
Ivanovitch.”

[13] Lord, or Sir.

[14] Driver.

[15] His heir would have been the wayward, eccentric Constantine, who,
in such a crisis, could not have maintained his position for a month.

[16] De Maistre.

[17] Madame de Stael, “Dix Années d’Exil.”

[18] An eye-witness tells us “how the image of St. Sergius was
presented to the young Czar, whose handsome face, surrounded by the old
banners in the dimly-lighted church, had a most picturesque effect.”
(See the “Memoirs of Madame Junot.”)

[19] All these particulars, as well as those of the meeting in the Hall
of the Merchants, are historical.

[20] Elected annually from their own body. His munificent donation was
paid the next day.

[21] Madame de Stael.

[22] He fought in the Vendéan War, and was taken prisoner and executed
by the Republicans. He said to his judges, “J’ai fait mon devoir;
faites votre métier.”

[23] Alexander would not allow the country to be laid waste before the
invaders; but government stores were destroyed or carried away, and
private individuals voluntarily did the same, to a great extent, with
their own possessions.

[24] These outrages, and others yet more revolting, were constantly
committed by the French in Russia.

[25] A fact.

[26] The story of Petrovitch is historical. Scarcely anything has been
added, and only a few rather improbable details have been omitted.

[27] God the Son.

[28] Her persistence in remaining in the city and her death are
historical.

[29] The conversation which follows is given as it was recorded by
Michaud himself. All the details in this chapter are historical,
without any admixture of fiction.

[30] General Kutusov.

[31] De Maistre.--Sir Robert Wilson, an Englishman, was of great use in
this crisis as the friend and counsellor of Alexander.

[32] Another story is told, connecting Alexander’s first acquaintance
with the ninety-first psalm with Prince Galitzin, but that given above
seems on the whole to be preferable.

[33] A fact.

[34] The ninth of the fourteen official Tchinns, or ranks, recognized
by the Russian Government. Each rank in the army has a corresponding
grade and title in the civil service.

[35] Any one who has read the letters and proclamations of Count
Rostopchine, will be aware that the violence of language attributed to
him is very far from being exaggerated.

[36] The Empress Mary, the mother of Alexander, and the Empress
Elizabeth, his wife.

[37] De Maistre.

[38] The custom upon such occasions.

[39] The French, during the retreat, formed themselves into little
“coteries” of twelve or fifteen. If an outsider tried to join himself
to one of these, he was pitilessly driven away to die, sometimes even
murdered.

[40] A fact.

[41] Not “earlier than usual,” as the apologists of Napoleon delight in
repeating.

[42] A fact.

[43] The survivors in this terrible calamity were usually those who
“happened to have about them a little sugar or coffee.”

[44] A fact.

[45] All that is told in this and the succeeding chapter about the
ministrations of Alexander to the French prisoners is strictly and
circumstantially true. Sir Archibald Alison, who well observes that
Alexander terminated “a campaign of unexampled danger and glory by
deeds of unprecedented mercy,” had the details from the Emperor’s own
physicians, Wylie and Crichton, his assistants in the noble work.
There are many other sources of information from which interesting
anecdotes may be gleaned. The story of the dying Spaniard is one of
these. Alexander not only took care to forward his letter, but sought
out all the other Spanish prisoners, clothed them, and sent them home
at his own expense. He described his visit to the Convent of St. Basil
to a friend in these words:--“I was there in the evening: a single
lamp illumined those profound vaults, beneath which piles of corpses
had been heaped almost as high as the walls. I cannot express the
horror with which I was penetrated when amongst the dead bodies I saw
creatures moving who were yet alive.” On his way to Vilna, he took
up in his own sledge starving French soldiers whom he met with, and
brought them to those whom he could trust to take care of them, leaving
money to supply their wants.

[46] Madame de Choiseul-Gouffier.

[47] “Eh, mon Dieu,” s’écria le maréchal, “qui est-ce qui aurait le
courage de faire du mal à cet ange?”

[48] The aide-de-camp was Rapatel, a protégé of Moreau, who had
attached himself to Alexander out of gratitude for his kindness to the
family of his friend and patron.

[49] A distinguished English officer, who was present, says this was
the only occasion on which he ever saw Alexander put himself personally
forward; he was usually, though only too ready to share the perils of
war, careful to leave its glories to his generals. But this was to save
life.

[50] He could say all that and more with perfect truth. The conduct
of Alexander during the War of Liberation forms a very bright page in
his history. He spared no effort to infuse his own courage, energy,
and determination into his allies. At the outset, he wished for the
chief command of the united armies, a position for which he was well
qualified, and to which he possessed every possible claim. But Austrian
jealousy interfered: for it must be remembered that Francis of Austria
had given his daughter in marriage to Napoleon, so that the infant heir
of the common enemy was the grandson of one of the allied sovereigns.
Inspired by his cabinet, the Austrian general, Prince Schwartzenberg,
opposed the arrangement, and Alexander quietly gave way. He appeased
the indignation of the King of Prussia, and reconciled Schwartzenberg
with him. He broke up his own enormous armies into auxiliary corps,
most of which he placed under the command of his allies; and abandoning
the lower ambition of being the nominal head of the confederation,
contented himself with being its soul and its inspiring genius. It was
he who planned, and urged upon his allies, the march upon Paris that
brought the war to a successful termination.

[51] A fact.

[52] Englishmen who were in Paris during 1814 bear testimony to this
interesting fact.

[53] “Ses ennemis cessaient de l’être à ses yeux, dès qu’ils étaient
malheureux.”--MADAME DE CHOISEUL-GOUFFIER.

[54] He established _two_; one in St. Petersburg, and the other in
Warsaw.

[55] Domergues, a Frenchman bitterly prejudiced against everything
Russian, pronounces this allowance really “munificent” under the
circumstances, and says the prisoners were able to live upon it in the
greatest comfort.

[56] A well-known form of punishment in Russia. Alexander himself
inflicted it upon some personages of the highest rank, for gross acts
of peculation and dishonesty.

[57] Alexander always referred to the day of Austerlitz as “his
unfortunate day,” and never ceased to mourn the slaughter to which he
led his brave army upon that occasion.

[58] A similar act of imperial munificence, performed in a similar
way, drew the comment from De Maistre: “En fait d’élégance souveraine,
l’Empereur de Russie est un grand artiste.”

[59] It is understood, of course, that Ivan speaks from the _Russian_
point of view.

[60] “In Russia every coxcomb is a prince.”

[61] All this, as also the account given at the end of this chapter, is
strictly historical.

[62] 1 John v. 13. The twofold use of the expression “believe on the
name of the Son of God” in this passage is instructive.

[63] This story is not true; but it was believed at the time.

[64] “Many a Parisian scoffer, going to hear her in her drawing-room,
which was open to all, returned,” says Sainte Beuve, “at least
thoroughly subdued by her personal magnetism. Those who seriously
believe in the intervention of Providence in the affairs of the world
should not judge her too superciliously: 1815 was a decisive epoch, and
to religious minds it may well have appeared that the crisis was grave
enough to demand a prophet.”

[65] Really given to Madame de Krudener by a child of Stéphanie’s age,
at a meeting similar to the one described above.

[66] The Governor of Paris.

[67] “He ‘has the honour of being presented’ to a lady; he ‘begs that
they will excuse’ him, etc.; he says, ‘will you permit?’ as well as
others. He is right, for he is a true gentleman, which is not quite so
easy as some believe.”--_De Maistre._

[68] Vie de Madame de Krudener, par M. Eynard.

[69] In the following conversation not only the sentiments but the
words given are all those of Alexander himself. It was his habit to pay
an occasional evening visit in the manner described above to those whom
he esteemed. He was not particular as to their rank (some merchants’
wives had poured out tea for him not unfrequently), but they were
always persons noted for piety and good works.

[70] These remarks on the influence of the Bible are taken from the
conversations of Alexander with the Lutheran Bishop Eylert.

[71] A fact. Visitors to St. Petersburg during the reign of Alexander
bore witness to the admirable condition of these institutions.

[72] “Emancipation is one of his ruling ideas. A great part of the acts
of his government bear the impression of it.”--_Dupré de St. Maure._

[73] The Russian alphabet; so called because arranged by Bishop Cyril.

[74] By William Penn. At the special desire of Alexander, the Countess
Metchersky translated it into Russ.

[75] Kohl.

[76] From a speech made by Alexander at a meeting of the Frankfort
Bible Society.

[77] Dissenters.

[78] Let the thoughtful student read the whole passage from which these
lines are taken. The story of Arthur, as the Laureate has transfigured
and interpreted it for us, sheds a ray of light upon that of Alexander.

[79] This answer was really given by a child of his age, the little son
of Madame de Choiseul-Gouffier.

[80] The army which Russia, in common with the other Allied Powers,
left in France after the peace of 1815. It was withdrawn in the latter
part of 1818.

[81] Words used by Alexander to a young Protestant missionary whom the
Englishman, Lewis Way, brought to see him.

[82] Dupré de St. Maure.

[83] “Vie de Madame de Krudener.” Par M. Eynard.

[84] The death of his only child, Sophie Narischkin, a beautiful and
most amiable girl, about to be married to one of his aides-de-camp. The
whole story is deeply touching.

[85] “His face showed care and sorrow, but the remembrance of these
walks, and the acts of benevolence resulting from them, is the most
touching of my recollections in Russia,” writes a Frenchman who
happened to be at Taganrog at the time.

[86] Life of William Allen.

[87] Nor was it. Alexander died on the 1st of December 1825, Elizabeth
on the 16th of the following May.

[88] “He was said to be no solitary example of a broken heart for the
loss of Alexander. Many were mentioned both in St. Petersburg and in
Moscow; and a Russian assured me that he would venture any wager that
if all the deaths from this cause throughout the empire were reckoned
together, they would amount to above a hundred.”--_Kohl._

[89] “J’aimais à voir partager ma tristesse jusque par les habitans
de cette Champagne où Alexandre était entré en vainqueur. Il n’y eut
pas un pauvre vigneron d’Epernay ou de Vertus qui ne se fut écrié en
apprenant la mort d’Alexandre, ‘Ah, quel malheur; il avait sauvé la
France!’ Une paysanne me disait un jour, ‘Hélas, madame, il était aussi
aimable qu’il était beau!’”--_Madame de Choiseul-Gouffier._



Transcriber’s Notes


Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not
changed.

Punctuation and spelling of non-English words were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

Page 261: “adequately express, themselves” was printed with the comma.





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